People often confuse philosophy with metaphysics and epistemology, the branches of philosophy that study reality and what we can know of it. They thereby assume that philosophy is an austere discipline requiring years of study, full of obscure questions that only throw up more questions, leaving us dizzy and confused.
Philosophy is a broader field of study than metaphysics and epistemology. It includes moral and political philosophy, two very practical forms of inquiry. Anyone can do practical philosophy. You don’t need a degree. Most of us know a little practical philosophy that we’ve picked up here and there, often without realizing it.
Practical philosophy is philosophy in its ancient guise. It is concerned with ‘ethics’ and the good life. Socrates was a practical philosopher. The great philosophers of Greece and Rome were all deeply concerned with practical philosophy and the question of the good life, a life of happiness and flourishing.
Philosophy for Change is practical philosophy for times of change.
The challenges of the decades ahead present us with a different risk environment to the one we’ve become use to through the twentieth century. We are entering what James Martin calls the twenty first century canyon.
Philosophy for Change prepares participants to engage the twenty first century canyon. The course uses philosophical examples to explore the virtues, qualities, and skills required to flourish through times of change. The key virtues are resilience, agility, and vision. Resilience, agility, and vision are essential qualities for a robust and creative engagement with life and change generally. In Philosophy for Change classes and seminars, I use philosophical insights to explore these qualities and how to achieve them. I offer games and exercises that help participants get inside the ideas and apply them in familiar contents. As I explain in the course description on the CCE website:
‘Each philosopher contributes a different insight into the art of reflective change. The lessons are distilled into practical exercises that consolidate the ideas and show participants how to apply them in everyday contexts. Through practical exercises, participants learn how to cultivate the resilience to deal with change, the agility to explore different aspects of their person, and the vision to use change to forge empowering new perspectives on the future’.
Here is a group exercise that I use in my classes on leadership and innovation. The aim of this exercise is to reveal how collaboration has an intrinsic value when participants are able to draw on their personal powers and apply them to common goals.
I embed the lessons of Philosophy for Change in my book, Life Changing: A Philosophical Guide. Life Changing will be available on Amazon in print and ebook from May 2012. It is a hands-on guide to coping and flourishing through change.