Saturday, September 3, 2011

Philosophy Pornography is Alive & Well at WaPo

I was actually kind of surprised to find a b.s.-free article on philosophical therapy, in the Local section of the Washington Post.   Journalisticos for that section favor rather the Blithering approach to most things;  indeed I have it on good authority that, in the press-room, a placard advises,

Ever  Blither

No doubt the fact that the profilee in this case was a former enlisted Marine, helped tamp down any three-hanky approach to the matter.   Such men (with whom it is my honor to work every day), when asked how they, purrrrrsonally, deeeeeply feeeeeel about all this, and would they pleeeease share their feeeeeeeeeelings with all the folks at home, are likely to answer, “I wouldn’t care to speculate, ma’am.”

This morning, however, that useful site  offers this at the top of its “Articles of Note”:

Struggling through unemployment? Try Taoism. Midlife crisis? Read Nietzsche. Philosophical counselors have the cure for whatever ails you..

One may be uncertain, at the outset, whether that slab of blather is intended as satire. (The bosses would just love it if the Reserve Army of the Unemployed would just shut up and take up Taoism.)  Unfortunately, as we have seen,  the aldaily is indeed much addicted to Physics Porn, so they may have meant it straight.  Anyhow, U B the judge:

Notice that the article appears in the sappy “Lifestyle” section -- not a good sign.  Anyhow, the thing starts off:

Patricia Anne Murphy is a philosopher with a real-world mission.
Murphy may have a PhD and an intimate knowledge of Aristotle and Descartes, but in her snug Takoma Park bungalow, she’s helping a broken-hearted patient struggle through a divorce.

We are far from the Stoa, in that snug Takoma bungalow.   Still, gigantic brains may be found in the unlikeliest places:

They’re like intellectual life coaches. Very intellectual.

Oh, very intellectual-- honor bright ! Yet with smart pants-suits  color-coordinated for the fall fashions !

They have in-depth knowledge of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist theories on the nature of life and can recite passages from Martin Heidegger’s phenomenological explorations of the question of being.

Lengthy passages, too, from memory -- heck, recite 'em backwards! -- thus harmonizing with those Tibetan monks that chant the wisdom of the curry-munching philospher  while spinning their prayer-wheels.

And they use them to help clients overcome their mother issues.

(God help any mother whose children fall into the slimepit with Jean-Paul Sartre.)

Suffering from a midlife crisis? Try a dose of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in his autobiography of creating an inner 25-year-old superhero in middle age.

Oh, Nietzsche by all means, that self-imagined Übermensch in a paper cape.  Not so good for your mother-issues, however; Nietzsche is well-known for the epigram “Goest thou to woman?  Do not forget thy whip.”  (Apparently his Mom was quite a handful.)


Now, you may think it churlish of us to notice an article in a “Lifestyle” section -- de minimis non curat vir -- and indeed, we would not have, save for its having been trumpeted by the Arts & Letters Daily, widely respected among the well-read.    Moreover, its pap is not anodyne.  As one reader tartly responded:

How could you write a whole article about using philosophy as therapy without citing ANY scientific evidence of its effectiveness? This is cargo-cult psychology, of which there is rather a lot. The APA easily allows people to set up their own divisions, and journals happily publish rubbish, but..... the planes don't land!  


bartenders do this counseling thing better!

(Vox populi, vox dei.)

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