Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement


Therapy and Theory Reconstructed: Plato and his Successors

Stephen R. L. Clark

When we speak of philosophy and therapy, or of philosophy as therapy, the usual intent is to suggest that ‘philosophizing’ is or should be a way to clarify the mind or purify the soul. While there may be little point in arguing with psychoses or deeply-embedded neuroses our more ordinary misjudgements, biases and obsessions may be alleviated, at least, by trying to ‘see things clearly and to see them whole’, by carefully identifying premises and seeing what they – rationally – support, and by seeking to eliminate the residual influence of premises that we have long since, rationally, dismissed. I don't intend to argue with this account – though of course it may be as well to remember that ‘philosophizing’ may have more dangerous effects. It is not obvious that philosophical argument will always help us ‘see things straight’, and the Athenian democracy was not altogether wrong to think that some of Socrates' followers or pupils learnt quite the wrong things from him.


Stephen R. L. Clark is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool. His research interests include Plotinus, animals, science fiction and philosophy of religion. Among his many books, the most recent are Understanding Faith: Religious Belief and its Place in Society (Imprint Academic, 2009), Biology and Christian Ethics (Peking, 2006) and G. K. Chesterton: Thinking Backward, Looking Forward (Templeton Foundation Press, 2006).