srijeda, 28. kolovoza 2013.

Filozofske konzultacije

1. Što su filozofske konzultacije?

   Filozofske konzultacije predstavljaju vođeni dijalog između filozofa i njegovih klijenata, kojim se pomoću filozofskih metoda (majeutike, argumentacije, konceptualizacije i dr.) rješavaju konkretni, svakodnevni životni problemi koje klijenti postave pred filozofa.
   Iako je filozofski dijalog forma stara koliko i sama filozofija, filozofske su se konzultacije metodički intenzivno razvijale u posljednjih 30-ak godina, od kako je Gerd Achenbach započeo filozofiju u praksi. Danas postoji nekoliko različitih škola i pristupa filozofskim konzultacijama, tj. filozofskom savjetovanju. Terminološke razlike ovih dvaju naziva govore i o prirodi pristupa klijentima i njihovim problemima. Dok neki filozofi vole takvu praksu nazivati savjetovanjem, drugi inzistiraju na upotrebi termina konzultacije. Ukoliko se radi o savjetovanju, filozofi na kraju dijaloga klijente obično savjetuju o tome kako riješiti problem, ili što činiti u susretu s problemom, što čini filozofsko savjetovanje izrazito slično psihološkom ili čak vjerskom savjetovanju, s određenim sadržajnim razlikama. S druge strane, prilikom filozofskih konzultacija filozofi ne daju savjete klijentima, nego u sokratskom dijalogu, propitujući klijente, omogućuju samim klijentima iznalaženje rješenja problema. Filozofi vladaju određenim dijaloškim vještinama, vještinama logičkog, analitičkog i sintetičkog mišljenja te vještinama postavljanja pitanja koje su ključne za vođeni dijalog o problemu. Prilikom filozofskih konzultacija, filozof koristi te vještine kako bi klijenta vodio kroz moguće situacije, sve do konačnog rješenja problema. Problematika koju klijent iznosi pred filozofa može se ticati bilo koje životne ili hipotetičke situacije: nedostatak sna, problemi na poslu ili u obitelji, nesređeni odnosi prema samom sebi, problemi u vezama, donošenje važnih odluka, moralne dileme, gubitak voljene osobe, etička pitanja, itd. Klijenti filozofskih konzultacija mogu biti djeca, tinejdžeri, odrasli ljudi ili umirovljenici. Također, klijenti mogu biti svih profila zanimanja, bilo da su učenici, studenti, doktori znanosti ili kvalificirani radnici. Svi ljudi na svijetu, nažalost, imaju probleme. 

2. Kako funkcioniraju filozofske konzultacije?

   Koristeći metodu vođenog sokratskog dijaloga, posebice po smjernicama francuskog filozofa Oscara Brenifiera, filozofske konzultacije počinju tako da klijent formulira svoj problem u obliku pitanja koje postavlja filozofu. Na primjer, ukoliko klijent ima problema sa snom, mogao bi postaviti jednostavno pitanje "Zašto me muče noćne more?", ili ukoliko se radi o problemu u romantičnoj vezi "Kako da prevladam ljubomoru?", ili ukoliko se radi o osobnom problemu "Kako mogu biti otvoreniji/a prema drugima?", itd. 
Nakon postavljenog početnog pitanja, klijent više ne postavlja pitanja, nego samo daje odgovore na pitanja koja postavlja filozof, a koja vode rješenju problema. Time se vrši sokratski dijalog, kakav je viđen u Platonovim filozofskim spisima u kojima jedan od sugovornika postavlja određen problem pred Sokrata. Kad je problem postavljen, Sokrat nastavlja dijalog u kojem postavlja pitanja, a sugovornik daje odgovore, dok zajedničkim snagama i metodama argumentacije ne dođu do rješenja. Rješenje se problema, pak, neće uvijek svidjeti klijentu, jer moguće zahtijeva određene žrtve ili odricanja, ili čak promjenu pristupa problemu, no konzultacijama se uvijek može doći do rješenja. Filozofske konzultacije obično traju sat vremena, prilikom čega se ispituju različiti pristupi problemu te moguća rješenja, dok se nakon samih konzultacija ostavlja vrijeme za evaluaciju prilikom čega klijent ocjenjuje rad filozofa te proces konzultacija, ali i rješenje problema te vlastite buduće akcije koje će voditi ostvarenju tog rješenja.

3. Što dobivate filozofskim konzultacijama?

   Kako je već naglašeno, za razliku od psihologa, filozof vam neće davati konkretne savjete u svezi s tim što trebate uraditi kad se susretnete s određenim problemom. On vam neće reći kako da riješite problem. Filozof će s vama razgovarati i dopustit će da sami nađete rješenje problema, ma koji problem bio u pitanju. Najčešće klijenti sami znaju odgovor na vlastiti problem, ali ga iz nekog razloga ne vide. Filozof je tu da klijentu ukaže na najbolji mogući put do iznalaženja rješenja. Često sami sebe 'blokiramo' iz nekih razloga i ne dozvoljavamo si mišljenje koje nam pomaže u rješavanju problema - filozof utoliko bolje sagledava situaciju i omogućuje klijentima jasnije mišljenje, traži od njih argumente ili pred njih postavlja hipotetičke situacije koje vode rješenju problema. Filozof nikada neće okriviti nekoga za određeni problem, niti će tražiti dublje traume kako bi se problem riješio. Filozofske konzultacije pomažu u samom procesu mišljenja, u prevladavanju blokade, u iznalaženju najpovoljnijeg rješenja, ali ih to ne čini čudesnima. Filozofske konzultacije ne obećavaju sreću, ljubav, blagostanje niti bogatstvo. Filozofske konzultacije služe da sami sebe propitate što je sreća, zašto nam treba ljubav, što bismo činili s bogatstvom - kad na ta pitanja date sebi odgovor, otvorit će se nova pitanja, novi odgovori, novi problemi i novi načini rješavanja problema. Na kraju, filozofi su tu samo kako bi postavljali pitanja, a na vama je da sami za sebe pronađete odgovore.

4. Kako stupiti u kontakt s filozofskim konzultantom/savjetnikom?

   U udruzi Mala filozofija od ove godine pružamo usluge filozofskog savjetovanja, odnosno filozofskih konzultacija s klijentima. Radi što veće dostupnosti klijentima odlučili smo se za online konzultacije koje se mogu zakazati u dogovoru s filozofom, a mogu se na jednostavan način uraditi preko Skype-a.

   Zoran Kojčić, magistar je filozofije i filozofski savjetnik/konzultant. Autor je nekolicine članaka objavljenih u stručnoj periodici te je izlagao radove na nekoliko znanstvenih skupova. Zaposlen je kao nastavnik u Srednjoj školi Dalj, a član je udruge Mala filozofija od 2012. godine, za koju je organizirao program Filozofija za umirovljenike. Dodatno obrazovno usavršavanje za filozofskog konzultanta završio je na seminaru Oscara Brenifiera, "Filozofska praksa", u Francuskoj, 2012. godine, te certificiranom programu za filozofskog savjetnika, portugalske filozofske organizacije Gabinete Project@, 2013. godine.

Kontakt:
Mail - zorankojcic@gmail.com
Skype - zoran.kojcic

petak, 19. srpnja 2013.

Philosophical Consultations

1. What are Philosophical Consultations?

   Philosophical counselling or philosophical consultations present a guided dialogue between philosopher and their clients, by which using philosophical methods (such as maieutics, argumentation, conceptualisation, etc.) concrete, everyday life problems are solved. Though philosophical dialogue is old as philosophy itself, philosophical counselling as method has developed more intensively in last 30 years, since Gerd Achenbach started his philosophical practice. Today there are several different schools or approaches to philosophical counselling/consultations. The mere difference in terminology with these two terms - counselling and consultations - tells us about the nature of approach to clients and their problems. While some philosophers name this practice as counselling, others insist on using the term consultations. Usually, if philosophers do counselling, they give counsel/advice on how to solve the problem, or what clients should/shouldn't do when faced with the problem, which makes philosophical counselling similar to psychological or religious counselling, with certain differences in content. On the other hand, during philosophical consultations philosophers do not give advices to their clients, but rather question their clients, using socratic dialogue, enabling clients themselves to find the solution. Philosophers posses certain dialogical skills, which are connected with logical, analytic and synthetic thinking and also with questioning skills, which is a key problem solving skill in guided dialogue. During philosophical consultations, philosopher uses those skills in order to guide his client trough possible situations until clients reach final solution. Problems which clients have could be connected with any life situation or simulated/hypothetical situation, like: lack of sleep, problems related to job or family, bad self conception, relationship problems, decision making, moral dilemmas, personal loss, etc. Clients for philosophical consultations could be children, teenagers, adults or senior citizens. Also, clients could be of any profession, whether they are students, PhD's or common workers, with or without any background in Philosophy. Unfortunately, we all have problems.

2. How do Philosophical Consultations work?

   Using method of guided socratic dialogue, especially by guidelines by French philosopher Oscar Brenifier, philosophical consultations start in a way that a client states his/hers problem in form of a question. For instance, if a client has trouble with sleeping, they could ask 'Why do i have problem with nightmares?', or if they have relationship problems 'How can i overcome jealousy?', or if it's personal problem 'How can i be more open to others?', etc.

   After they state their initial question, clients do not ask any more questions, but rather they give answers to philosopher, which will eventually lead them to solution. By doing that, both engage in socratic dialogue, as seen in Plato's dialogues, where one of interlocutors states certain problem to Socrates. After the problem is defined, Socrates continues the dialogue where he asks the questions, while interlocutor answers to him, using various philosophical methods, until they both reach solution. However, the solution isn't always pleasant to clients, because it is possible that solution demands certain sacrifice or renunciation, or change in approach towards the problem, but by doing consultations we can always reach the solution. Philosophical consultations usually last for one hour, during which we examine different approaches to a problem and possible solutions, while after the consultations itself we leave some time to evaluate where client has a chance to grade philosophers work and the process of consultations, but also the solution to their problems and future actions which could lead to realization of proposed solution.

3. What do you get by doing Philosophical Consultations?

    As said before, unlike psychologist, philosopher won't give you counsel on what to do when confronted with problem. Philosopher won't tell you how to solve your problem. Philosopher will talk with you and guide you to discover solution to your problem on your own, no matter what the problem is. Mostly, clients know the answer to their problem, but they can't see it for some reason. Philosopher is there to point the best possible way to finding solution. Often we block ourselves and we don't allow ourselves to think, which would solve our problems - philosopher is in better position to perceive the situation and enable clients to think clearer, to find arguments or present clients with hypothetical situations which all leads toward solution. Philosopher will never blame someone for a problem, nor will he/she search deeper traumas in order to help you solve the problem. Philosophical consultations help clients in process of thinking, in overcoming the blockade, in finding  optimum solution - but that doesn't mean they are miraculous. Philosophical consultations do not promise happiness, love, well being or wealth. Philosophical consultations are used to question what is happiness, why do we need love, what would we do with wealth, etc. After one answers these questions, new questions will arise, with new possibilities, new answers, new solutions. At the end, philosophers are there to guide you with questioning, it is up to you to find the answers.

4. How to get in contact with Philosophical Consultant?

   This is the easiest part. If you are determined to do philosophical consultations and you think it is the right way for you, you can contact Zoran Kojcic on any of social network profiles. 

   Zoran Kojcic has masters degrees in Philosophy and Philology. Zoran is philosophical practitioner, teacher, workshop facilitator and philosophical consultant, attended Oscar Brenifier's Philosophical Practice summer seminar at La Chapelle st Andre in France in 2012, and holding Philosophical Counselling International Certificate by Portuguese Gabinete Project@.
 
You can contact Zoran Kojcic to schedule consultations via Skype or Facebook:

email - zorankojcic@gmail.com
Skype - zoran.kojcic
Twitter - @zorankojcic
 

srijeda, 12. lipnja 2013.

Practicing Philosophy on a Bicycle

As promised, today i will write more detailed post on how philocycling, or philosophy on a bicycle, excercise works.

   Today i did a solo philocycling route for about 2 hours. This time i connected it with previous practice of philosophical walks, by Dutch philosopher Peter Harteloh, whom i met last year during a seminar in France. His method connects philosophical concepts with space and place. Before the philosophical walk, each participant is given a piece of paper with a quote by some famous philosopher. Participants should find a philosophical concept related to this quote, walk in silence and during a walk find a place which reminds them most of the chosen concept. Philocycling could be done in same manner, perhaps when done in group, but since i've done it alone this time, i deceided to choose a concept for self analysis before cycling. 

   My main concept was related to work. As i cycle from my starting point to first resting stop, i thought about my next direction in professional life - since i just finished a course on philosophical counselling, i examined my choices, possible solutions for starting own business and where this may lead me in future. After about 15 minutes of cycling, i came to my first stop.


   My first stop was in the fields, next to the road, exactly where i stopped yesterday. Main concept which i related to this place was 'change'. Yesterday i was really sorry i didn't bring my phone so i could take some photos of beautifuly shaped clouds. Today, of course, clouds were completely different. For a moment i thought about Hegel, and his explanation of how we can't speak about beauty when it comes to nature, precisely because it is all time changing. According to Hegel, beauty lies in unchangable things, but when i come to think of it, something can be beautiful even for a moment, whether it's a cloud, a song, or a painting.

   Continuing on my cycling route, work was still my main analysis object. This time i thought about my current work and how it can be really rewarding. Being a teacher is truly hard work, but if one gives himself to others in his work, sincerely and honestly, others recognize it and they give something back. Now comes the question whether it is selfish or not, to expect something in return. More on that after the next stop:


   My second stop was just after a long climb uphill. Here, i thought mostly about a concept of goals. Hills usually have a challenging effect on me, maybe because i live in plain area. Each hill, whether it's lower or higher, represents a challenge for me and i have some kind of urge to climb it, where it's top represents a goal. In life we tend to do the same, we set our goals up high and make an effort to achieve whatever goals might be up there.  

   As i continued my rout, i returned to the concept of selfishness. I have come to conclusion that i am a selfish person when it comes to my professional efforts, but i always make sure that out of my selfish needs comes something useful for others, too. In fact, being selfish isn't something utterly wrong, as some religious teachings told us, but a basic human animal instinct. What makes us a bit different from other animals is the ability to say 'No' when needed, to stop acting when our selfish golas can harm others in any way. Unfortunately, some of us humans aren't always ready to stop themselves when it gets to that point. 


   My third stop was by the river Danube, which at this point represents natural border between Croatia and Serbia. Also, in last few days, Danube is flooding the area, making a lot of damage in Central Europe and soon to come near my village, maybe even setting new record in water level. This reminded me of concept of power, and mostly of the power of nature over men. We may set dams in order to protect our property, but if things get wild, there isn't much we can do about it. I asked myself, how far will people go untill they completely conquer nature, and will we ever be able to.

   On my way home, after a long ride, Danube reminded me of my childhood, because i grew up by this great river. Wanting to connect my previous concept of work and my childhood, i tried to remeber what i wanted to be when i grow up. Most of the children want to be firemen, policemen, doctors or vets, they want to help others in best possible way, but i really couldn't remeber wanting any of that. I remembered that my grandmother wanted me to be a priest or a doctor, in her own words, so that other would respect me; and my father wanted me to be a farmer, like him...then it came to me - at first i wanted to be an astronaut, and then archaeologist. I don't know why i didn't achieve that, but i do know that i didn't stop asking myself the same questions since then, questions maybe nobody knows the answer to. Questioning, i guess, was what i always did, and probably what i will always do.

Zoran Kojcic


utorak, 11. lipnja 2013.

Philocycling - Philosophizing on a bicycle

   Lately, the World economic crisis made us all...well, made most of us think more on how we spend and manage our money or resources. That was one of the main reasons i got involved in DIY hobbies and activities, starting with some failed solar heating adventures, followed by garden decorations and some other useful thingies for my mobile devices. Few days ago i bought a bike, first one after more than 10 years, and now i pretty much enjoy cycling as a useful hobby. 
   At first i liked the bike, but i wasn't satisfied with what was written on it. It looked like this: 


   CyberRock!?!?! Whatever that means! I wanted to change something but i wasn't sure what. After some web search on 'how to decorate your bike' i didn't know what to do, because nothing looked like what i wanted. Then it hit me - i asked myself 'if i were to get a tattoo, what would it be?'. Answer was so simple, and now i got it on my philocycle:


   Gnothi seauton, means 'Know thyself'. An ancient Greek imperative, written above the entrance to Delphi temple in Greece. An imperative every philosopher knows about and should stick to in every situation. On the other side of philocycle, it says:


   Memento mori - Latin imperative, meaning 'remember that you will die', which can be interpreted in many ways, but i like to use it as constant reminder of what we really are.

   Anyway, now that i have a philocycle, i am able to engage into philocycling, a method i am still developing. For start, philocycling could be done while cycling alone, in pair or in group. If alone, you would need to focus on silence, introspection and contemplation (meditation could also be applied here, but i didn't try it). If you would do it in pair or in a small group, your main focus should be on dialogue development and questioning each other.

   Philocycling could be done in whatever time period suits you, whether it is an hour, two hours or more, with approximately equal periods of time dedicated to self and to the environment around you. For instance, you can do 15 minutes of cycling with 5 minutes of rest where cycling period could be used for self analysis, and rest periods for analysis of the environment, or vice versa. Places for rest periods should be chosen considering their geographic uniqueness. Self analysis can be focused on contemplation on questions like: who am i, what is the purpose of my existence, why i do what i do, how can i improve my life, work, relationships, etc. Environment analysis can be focused on thinking about the nature around you, at specific places: the sky (or the universe), cloud chapes, mountains, fields, rivers, lakes or the sea, villages or towns, etc. It would be better if the environment is variegated and interesting. 

   And there you have it. A hobby which is useful both for you body and your mind, keeping both of them occupied at the same time, making them work hard together, for your benefit. Please, if you deceide to try it on your own, or with own variations, let me know. 

   Later on, i will make sure to write a new post with more photos from my philocycling trip, with comments on self and environment analysis related to specific places.


Zoran Kojcic

petak, 3. svibnja 2013.

Reflecting on Philosophy for elders workshops

After three months, my first Philosophy for elders workshops program is over.

     Six workshops held in village of Bijelo Brdo, in Croatia, started in February with a simple idea that anyone and anywhere can do philosophy. Though I had my doubts about the whole project as we started, everything turned out even better than I expected. Now is the time to shortly reflect on everything we've been trough.

     The program itself consisted of six very simple workshops, dealing mainly with methods of socratic dialogue, argumentation, conceptualisation, questioning and debate. Participants took it very well, even though they constantly emphasized that they were not educated enough for that kind of practice. Sometimes i had a hard time explaining to them that backgroud in academic philosophy isn't needed for people to think for themselves, nor did i use any technical terms in order to explain a situation or a problem with which we dealt. For every topic i choose to mention some everyday examples which they could have experienced in their lives and i mentioned only Plato of all famous philosopher, just in order to illustrate a point, for which, again, nobody needed any academic backgroud in philosophy. We kept it simple untill the end and i'm sure that's what they enjoyed the most - dealing with some serious issues, based only on their own thoughts and views.

     We started with 15 participants at the beginning and ended up with 7 regular people by the end. There were some participants who couldn't find the time, or got sick, or just didn't like it so they stopped comming, but the ones who stayed were really pleased every time we meet and eager to know everything about our next meeting, in order to prepare better.

    Facilitating the workshops wasn't easy, because, as in every group of people, there were some who couldn't stop talking, no matter what the topic was, and there were those quiet ones, who speak only when asked something. The group was really friendly and they have known each other for quite some time, so there was quite a bit of laughs, but when it comes to work they have shown a great success in serious philosophizing on various topics. The methods which we used weren't hard for them, they accepted them really fast and played along with every task which i gave them.

     At the end, participants told me that from now on they won't consider philosophy to be an useless term, but rather usefull thinking skill for better expression of thoughts with meaning. Honestly, i didn't and i couldn't expect these workshops to be a lifechanging event for the participants, but i am really glad i had a chance to work and share bits of wisdom with them. I can say that we achieved my initial goals, with these workshops i wanted to prove that philosophy can be usefull and that anyone can do philosophy. Other than that, i got alot more - i had a chance to do what i love the most and with amazing people who, at the end, benefit more than i did.

Zoran Kojcic

petak, 29. ožujka 2013.

Dealing with Death

   On February 24th my father died. This was the main reason i didn't write any posts for this long. Ever since his death, i've been trying to write something meaningful, but i just couldn't. Right after the funeral, i meant to write a post in his honour, but now it seems to me that i needed just a bit more time to reflect on everything that happened. 

   On February 25th 1999, my grandmother, on my mother's side, died. She and my father were very close during their lives. They both died in same hospital, on same floor, they were buried on same date, next to each other. A lot of people could find that interesting, at the very least, but i still can't grasp should i even cosider to give it some kind of meaning.

   Even before my grandmother died, i had some sort of panic attacks when confronted with thinking about my own death. They started when i was nine or ten years old. I was able to overcome those feelings or thoughts when i first read Plato's Phaedo, when i was 17. So i went back to rereading Phaedo after my father's funeral. No one can read it without admiring Socrates and his bravery when it comes to dying. What Plato basically writes is that there can be just two possible outcomes after a person dies: a) either your soulless body sleeps for eternity, and therefore gets a well deserved rest, or b) your soul, which is immortal, goes on to experience the eternal life and enjoys or suffers there, depending on what kind of life you lived. Which ever be the case, Plato says, death isn't something we should be affraid of, but a rather joyful moment and place where we should find our peace.

   Since i found out that my father had cancer, i tried to imagine what would his death look like, where will it happen, what will i be doing at the time, how will i take it, and so on. I thought about it every day for the past two years. I also thought of telling him how i felt about him. I wanted to tell him how proud i am of everything he's done for me, of everything he achieved, and mostly how i had the greatest luck to have a father who was a truly honest and hard working man, who did everything for his children's sake. I wanted to tell him so much more than these few cliches. But i couldn't. I couldn't because it would mean that i'm saying goodbye, and i wasn't ready for that. I sure the hell know that i'm not ready even now!

   Although i was worried for my sister and my mother, because i didn't know how they will take it, i was very calm at the funeral. We all went together to visit him to hospital, a day before his death. I've watched just enough drama movies and TV shows to know better when it comes to hospital visits - i knew that i couldn't miss it. The doctors told us on saturday that it isn't likely for him to live untill monday. As i couldn't say it, i had to do goodbye. We saw him at the worst. I couldn't hold my tears. He died on sunday morning, and i will never know for sure wether or not he was even aware of our visit. As i stood at the funeral, watching my father's lifeless body, i was calm. I repeated Plato's words in my head like a mantra - relief comes after the pain, relief comes after the pain!

   Few weeks before my father died, i read a post by Tim Lott, on facing death, with similar situation i was in (link). I wish i could throw some wise quotes i learned from my father, but i can't. My father wasn't a philosopher, he was a farmer. He was an educated man, with a graduate degree in agriculture, and an expert in his field, but he was happiest when he worked with his hands, on his land. I guess that some people are remembered by what they said, and some by what they did. According to Plato, only those who lived an examined life deserve to experience the place of Ideas. I actually don't believe in anything anymore. I know one thing, tho - i am proud of myself for trying to teach myself how to be a better philosopher and i am proud of my father for teaching me how to be a better man. I am not sure wether or not i will be able to follow this path for the rest of my life, but i know that i will try - not because i owe it to him, but because I want to!

   On the morning of Socrates' death, the prison guard unlocked his chains. Socrates turned to his students and told them how strange is this thing we call pleasant, because it always follows  what we call painful. Both of them seem to play a little game, where they always come one after the other, but never at the same time. So, whatever may be the case, whether my father just sleeps an eternal sleep, or his souls wanders in some sort of heaven, i am sure that he found his peace.

Goodbye, dad!

Zoran

petak, 8. veljače 2013.

Philosophy for elders, first time

As promised in my previous post (link) today i'm gonna write about first workshop in my Philosophy for elders program.

Our first meeting, and i believe this was first time that Philosophy for elders was held in Croatia, took place just few hours ago, in small village of Bijelo Brdo, Croatia. Workshop participants were retired senior citizens from different professions and backgrounds: policeman, graphic designer, teacher, truck driver, farmer and so on. They all were very cooperative and interested in our topic.

For our first meeting i chose a workshop based on Peter Harteloh's method of group philosophical consultations. Basic idea for this workshop is to develop questioning skills, as very important skill for any form of philosophical inquiry. This is where participants learn how to form meaningful and direct questions, actively listen to each other and develop a further sense for questioning the questions. Workshop begins with reading a zen riddle (koan), after which participants have to ask only one question about the story. P. Harteloh calls it The Ultimate Question, because he compared it with a question first asked by philosopher after his client in philosophical consultations has explained their problem. This first question is crucial. It shows how carefully you listened the story and what seems to be the problem you are dealing with within the story, what bothers you most. The thing is that only one participant can ask their question out loud, only if they think that they came up with the best question within the group. After that, everything comes down to facilitating the group. They have the task of questioning the (ultimate) question, asked by this one participant who dared to think their question was the best.

Of course, there are many other things within this workshop, but i would rather just shortly reflect on participants and their reactions to concept of philosophizing. At first, as i sat in that room at 5:10 pm with only three people who showed up on time, i had my doubts about the whole thing and i actually thought that it wouldn't work, but 10 minutes later, the room was full and i found myself explaining to people much, much older than me what philosophy is. As the workshop went on, i felt more secure and i got a feeling that they really liked this opportunity to discuss philosophically. The questions they asked were really good and made a lot of sense, and almost all of them were very active and opened. Even this one man, who forgot his hearing aid, talked loudly all the time so he can hear himself and who didn't maybe hear anything the rest of the group was saying (we had a good laugh, though), even he wrote down a mini Bible and was smiling at the end with a promise that he won't forget the aid next time. The rest of the group also gave a good feedback and expressed their interest in rest of the workshops, eager to hear what is next workshop going to be about and when is the next time we will meet. I think that they felt good with my role of facilitator, giving them little space, once in a while, for discussion, but we all agreed that they have problems with listening to each other without interruptions, which is something we surely will work on in future. Still, I also couldn't be happier with the group and with their engagement, and after one man stated that philosophical approach truly helps to exercise his mind, on which everyone else agreed, i am more and more certain that this program will prove that philosophy can be useful and that it can be done by anyone who is only willing to. 

Zoran Kojcic

ponedjeljak, 4. veljače 2013.

Practicing Philosophy with elders

   My efforts have borne fruit. Since i first engaged in philosophical practice, i wanted to do it all the way and in every possible way. This week im starting to facilitate Philosophy for elders workshops program of my own, and i hope this will be a good way to start with practical promotion of philosophical practice in Croatia.
The program is actually quite simple and it consists of six workshops, mostly based on Oscar Brenifier's approach to methods of socratic dialogue, problem solving, argumentation and conceptualisation. Basic goals of these workshops are to do something useful for community and to promote philosophical practice as philosophy for everyone.

   Few years ago Petit Philosophy association (of which i am a member) started promoting and doing philosophy for children in Croatia. Today, we want to expand to all forms of philosophical practice and philosophy for elders is just a part of that. Public image of philosophy and philosophers isn't good in Croatia and we want to change it by doing something useful for community. In my opinion, key issues here are that philosophy can be useful and that anyone can do philosophy.

   As i grew up and developed great interest in philosophy to a point that i want to study it on university level, i've been told, by my friends, parents, teachers, that philosophy is useless, that it's not even a real job and that i especially can't make a living out of it. Everyone around me seemed to be very pragmatic, but somehow i still wanted to follow the owl of Minerva and here i am, eight years after i first announced to my parents that i want to be poor lover of wisdom for the rest of my life, now trying to share some of the things i learned along the way and show how this strange, ridiculed poppycock we so pretentiously called philosophy can be of any use in everyday life.

   Across the street from my parents house, there actually lived a colleague of mine, philosopher, who moved out a few years before i even started to think about studying philosophy. He could have been a good support to my efforts, but all i was left with were farmers, like my father. I couldn't get any support there, because farmers in these parts of country were called philosophers only to mock one another when they talked too much gibberish. But, now i am trying to merge these two irreconcilable concepts - farmers and philosophy. Since philosophy for elders workshops will be held in two villages, almost all retired elders here were or even still are farmers. And as for me, this isn't the slightest problem - every single man or women during their lives at some point does a philosophical questioning, at least in their own head. The problem is that they either don't know that they are philosophizing or they can't get a good or reasonable answers for themselves.

   So, i hope to promote philosophical practice in a way to show people how philosophy can be useful for their everyday problems and that philosophy is something everyone can do. I hope that workshops will be firstly educational for participants and also interesting, challenging and fun to do. Surely, i will report on this blog after every session on how it went and what were the participant's reactions and comments. I hope we will be able to meet once every two weeks for next two or three months and i hope both groups, in two villages, will be satisfied with what they learn during our meetings. Unfortunately, i had no experience with education for elders before, so i am also hoping that after this program i will be able to compile specific philosophy workshop just for them if there is need, which means that i also hope to learn something and use it in future. At the end, i am really looking forward to this program and i hope that all elderly wisdom lovers will find some meaning within it.

Zoran Kojcic

nedjelja, 3. veljače 2013.

Teaching without textbooks

Last year i started blogging on different platform and one of my first posts was about teaching ethics without textbooks. Back then i just got started with this approach and i was developing the idea, so now i get the chance to share what i've learned from this experience so far.
To begin, i would like you to read this post on a link provided here.

Same as i felt back in October 2012, i feel now. It really is way better to approach Ethics in such manner that students engage in discussions, rather than just read or reinterpret what others said. Philosophical practice approach proved to be very useful here. Within it, the method of socratic dialogue shows best results. Lately, i've started to use philosophical cafe practice in classroom. The main idea here is to let my students choose for themselves which topic they want to discuss. Sure, they seem to have some difficulties in keeping the discussion going untill the end of the class, but this is where i come in. As soon as i notice they are having some trouble, i jump in with a question or statement, and the discussion goes on. This might occur few times during the class, it depends on students or on topic of discussion, but it is the point where you see how interesting this role change really is. Students are no longer just students, they are teachers as well. And teacher becomes mere facilitator, directing - not the knowledge students have, but the topic on which they should discuss. 

Socratic dialogue is very useful when you have specific topic in mind. Surely, as a teacher you should have annual plan and program of what you would teach in given subject. Similar to that, you should prepare for all your classes and do the research on topic you want to teach. If the topic is general and already known to your students, then you can begin with specific questions which will problematize it. If the topic is new to your students, then a short introduction is enough for them to grasp the possible views and to form an opinion. From that point on, directed questioning is all that matters. As you set your goals, questions should be directed in that way. Sometimes, i don't even tell a single statements during entire class, all i do is ask questions and students get to do the answering. While doing so, they should always be reminded to use arguments and if possible, also concepts. This type of discussion becomes extremely important for grading them.

Also, flipped classroom is new and interesting approach one can use with ease. With a little help of technology, we can do wonders nowadays. I prefer to use videos as sort of homework assignments. I usually pick videos on Youtube, or make my own videos (using iPad apps and posting them online), send the links to my students with additional tasks/questions to answer. This approach can be used both individually or in group and it works well, because they already watch videos everyday for fun, so it doesn't hurt to watch some for homework for change. I usually pick short videos, which they can understand, mostly animated short films which deal with a topic related to our subject. When i make videos, i make sure they get the most important facts in combination with examples, photos and directed motion, pointing out the most important connections. 

I've been asked a lot of times, by my colleagues, how do you grade your students then? One thing is interesting with this kind of approach - it's that there isn't a single student who will tell you during oral exam "I don't know". When they use textbooks, most teachers expect their students to repeat what's already written there. Based on correctness of repeated material, students are evaluated (in Croatia, numerically, where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best grade). I find that there are many other ways in which i can grade students. It gets difficult when i have students who don't function well with this approach, because they are used to 'textbook - repeat' system for so many years. And they tell me 'Please, just tell me what to write down, i will write it down and repeat it for you on exam'. So, how to deal with those who were taught WHAT to think, instead of HOW to think? They just need time and you have to work with them gradually. Short, individual assignments are best way to grade them as often as possible. Yes, they will still have trouble with oral exams, because they aren't used to express their own opinion, but they will do the assignments as you tell them to and maybe a bit worse grade in oral exam won't look so bad with the rest good grades for all other achievements. With time, they will get the courage and liberty to express what they think, just like the rest of the class. And as for the rest, the ones who were doing well since the beginning, it's really easy to grade them, because they respond with reasoning, arguments and sense. When repeating the textbook material on exams, students are nervous that they will get something wrong and fail the exam because of that. But after my first oral exam, where they weren't quite sure what to expect, i didn't see a single nervous student standing in front of me when it comes to exams or any other grading related situation. I asked them once, how come that they aren't nervous, and one of my best students answered - Because i trust my reasoning.

Zoran Kojcic

četvrtak, 17. siječnja 2013.

Tweetosophy


'What's this rather queer looking contraption?', we might ask ourselves. Twitter and philosophy? No way!

Yes way! said the whole tweetosophers community, and there's quite bunch of us. I've noticed there are some people who follow just over one thousand philosophers on Twitter. And with each new day i follow or get followed by more and more philosophers, engage with them in discussions, comments or questioning every possible philosophical field or problem. 

Of course, by discussion i mean exchange of ideas formed within a tweet, which is quite different than what some philosophers are used to. Discussing philosophical issues has mostly been done in wide form of essays where each point of view could be dissected and presented as complicated or difficult to express. Philosophers would approach every problem with variety of arguments, examples, thought experiments and the like, just as we are used to read philosophical books usually written in more than two hundred pages. But what if someone asked you to express your arguments in 140 characters? How could philosophers deal with that? Quite recently @ATBollands  and i argued on solipsism and he stated that "Twitter is so useful (if a little frustrating) for philosophical debate. It forces you to be concise in the arguments you give" on which i replied that "Maybe every philosophical debate should be as concise in argumentation as a tweet". And i really meant that! What @ATBollands brilliantly stated means that Twitter forces you to think how can you state your arguments in best possible way in order to fit them in only 140 characters. This means that Twitter forces you to think - and not just when engaged in philosophical, but also in any other discussion. 

I wrote about this in one of my previous posts - Philosopher of Post PC era - where i stated that Twitter can be understood as sequel of Short Message Service, or text messages, used on mobile phones, where we had the same restriction in messages we wanted to send to others. But what does this restriction achieve? Why force someone into this limited form of communication? I think it was Einstein who said 'If you can't explain it simply, then you don't understand it at all'. Twitter makes it simple and it makes you wonder about the essence of communication, for it is really just an exchange of messages. Also, one of basic linguistic theories argues in favour of linguistic economy, which roughly states that we should spend less energy in production of better communication. Transleted into tweetosophy, this means that philosopher, or any other, should practice the ways of communicating simpler statements with same or even better results in interlocutor's understanding. By mastering this communication skill we will never again feel incomplete in argumentation. In fact, our argumentation skills can only become better, because we learn how to construct simple and crystal clear arguments. Unless, of course, you want to be more like Hegel...eventually ending up not understanding yourself what you wanted to say. As much as we may admire Hegel's incredible work, there aren't many philosophers who can understand him entirely. But, one might also ask, is this the purpose of philosophy, not to be understood, or the be understood by only a few who have enough time and energy to waste on continuous reading of one man's worldviews and imaginations? I really wouldn't call that love for wisdom. I prefer to be understood by others and then also agreed with or refuted by their reasoning on same matter, but from a different perspective. I want to...
- ...benefit from philosophy!
- But you can't benefit from philosophy. It has a purpose in itself.
- What? What the fuck does that even mean?
- Well, it can be understood as...
- No, i asked what does it mean?
- Well, according to Plato...
- Im not interested in Plato. I want to hear what you have to say!
- Well, i base my opinion on previous...
- I'm not interested in hearing the history of ideas! I don't have time for that! I want to live! Tell me what it means!
- What it means?
- Uggggghhh!!!

So, other than above stated, there is one more reason for you to become a tweetosopher. Simply put, Twitter is where all the philosophical action is. Facebook is more of a place for friends, family and silly Youtube cat videos. LinkedIn is a place for your professional connections and where you pretend to be serious, academic and stuffy. Which leaves you with Twitter as place where you can relax, meet new people from around the world and philosophize in any way you like. So, if you have your Home - Facebook, you have your Work - LinkedIn, then you have your Going Out - Twitter! Twitter is the new Agora for philosophers! Only this time nobody will make us drink poison...i hope!

Zoran Kojcic