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Do you seek clarity?
Do you have an existential knot that seems impossible to untie?
Are you longing for a guide in these uncertain times?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, continue reading. I am opening up my philosophy practice again. My time slots usually become fully booked after announcing openings in my practice, so if you are called to begin a journey with me as your guide, the details on how to reach out will be at the bottom of this letter.
One goes to a therapist when they want to remove something from their life: depression, free-floating anxiety, a nebulous sense of not being enough. When one wants to add something to their life - more confidence, more money, more success - they go to a coach. As I've argued before, these “pulling weeds and planting seeds” disciplines are placeholders for a newly emerging practice.
Where do you go when you are confused about what you want and what you don’t want? What if the confusion is so deep that the foundation of what you believe to be true starts to shake? Who do you turn to when the is and ought of your worldview starts to severely hinder your navigation of the world?
People tend not to turn to philosophers these days, especially the academic kind, despite the many benefits of engaging in academic philosophy. Philosophy has cultivated the reputation of being unrelatable and unreadable. This is understandable, but it is also changing. “Outsider philosophers” are operating beyond the walls of academia, discussing our most pressing issues while challenging the broken worldviews influencing our legacy institutions. The Stoa has been a home to such philosophers.
Unfortunately, the abstract nature of such discourse, broadcast into a digital landscape shaped by the increasingly polarizing and schizophrenic culture war, does not offer clarity on the way forward for most. Philosophizing about what matters most requires great intimacy because what matters most often starts with the personal. In his paper “The Recovery of Practical Philosophy,” Stephen Toulmin argues that modern philosophy has become “theory centered,” with an exclusive emphasis on the written, timeless, general, and universal; forgoing the oral, timely, particular, and local. The latter is now seen as the domain of therapists and coaches.
The philosophy I am called toward requires both the practical and theoretical, with pulling weeds and planting seeds naturally happening along the way. A new role is emerging for those who would be guides in this practice, one that combines the argumentative prowess of the academic philosopher, the worldview remodelling of the outsider philosopher, the intrasubjective sensitivity of the therapist, and the in-the-world practicality of the coach.
I started my philosophy practice in January 2021 and have since engaged in over 200 inquiries. My conversational partners have included start-up founders, consultants, artists, celebrities, and people who have the audacity to do good in the world while making a good living. A throughline with all my inquiries is that my partner is knotted up about something.
This something was hard for them to pinpoint, coupled with a sense of stuckness. I have started to refer to these as existential knots (x-knots), and I describe them as a situation where you are “deeply confused about something that feels deeply important without feeling like you can accurately articulate what the confusion or importance is.” My approach to untying x-knots is philosophical inquiry, described by my mentor Andrew Taggart as “an unrehearsed genre whose principal aims are, first, to reveal to us what we don’t know but thought we did and, second, to bring us a greater sense of clarity than we could have possibly imagined.”
Such inquiry does not bias the practical or the theoretical. It does not favour the inward-looking focus of the therapist or the outward-looking focus of the coach. I do not know where our inquiry will take us, but the general direction is always toward greater clarity. Given this uncertainty the inquiry can feel a little wild, surprise-filled, and abundant with synchronicities. Each inquiry is approached as an adventure, with a sense of mystery and aliveness, because I view each inquiry as art. I view inquiry itself as an artform, one that is in service toward, to quote Montaigne, the “most valuable of all arts, the art of living well.”
I took a break from my practice to reassess my offerings, which will now be broken down into the following: philosophical guide, x-knot inquiry, and collective inquiry.
These will be longer-term relationships, lasting anywhere from 1-6 months (or more), at a cadence (weekly or biweekly) that works for both of us. Each session will be roughly around 90 minutes, but could end earlier or go longer. Philosophizing requires a state of timelessness, so schedule your time appropriately.
This option is best for those going through a transition, starting or running a business, or engaged in the ongoing project of deepening their clarity via “philosophy as a way of life.” I will only be having 6 of these relationships at a time. This will be situated in the market economy.
These will be one-off inquiries with an outstanding x-knot that gives you a sense of stuckness. The sessions will be roughly 60 minutes, and can also end earlier or go longer.
This option is best for those who have a nagging x-knot and/or are considering the philosophical guide option. I will only be engaging in these inquiries with people I have never inquired with before (with few exceptions). This will be situated in the gift economy.
These will be small-group inquiries designed to leverage the collective wisdom of the group to address any x-knots present. These groups will happen over a month, around a certain theme.
This option is best if you want to untie x-knots, while cultivating friendships of virtue. This will be situated in the market economy.
Called to Inquire?
If you are called to inquire with me or would like further details, simply reply to this letter, or email me at thestoa at protonmail dot com, and indicate which offering interests you.
Many thanks to Rebbeca Fox for the illustration and the design of my practice's opening and closing rituals.
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