CFP: Philosophy as Therapeia

Posted on July 31, 2007


Symposium on Philosophy as Therapeia:
Perspectives from India and Europe

Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference, University of Liverpool, 19th-21st June 2008

We are inviting proposals for papers on the topics outlined below. Please send abstracts to Clare Carlisle ( by 30th September 2007.

Papers presented at the Symposium will be published by Cambridge University Press in a volume entitled Philosophy as Therapeia.

“Empty are the words of that philosopher who offers therapy for no human suffering. For just as there is no use in medical expertise if it does not give therapy for bodily diseases, so too there is no use in philosophy if it does not expel the suffering of the soul.” The Stoic Epicurus (341-271 BCE) was not the only philosopher to give voice to a conception of philosophy as a cure or remedy for the maladies of the human soul. Indeed, this has been a prominent theme throughout the history of philosophy in Europe, and it has been just as prominent in many of the various traditions of philosophy in India. The aim of this Royal Institute of Philosophy symposium is to explore this paradigm or metaphor for the nature of philosophical practice. Our intention is that the resulting volume, to be published by Cambridge University Press, will contain the most definitive statement to date of the scope and limits of the medicinal model. There will be studies of all the most important uses to which this model have been put by philosophers in the past (Socratic, Stoics, Epicurus, Sextus Empiricus; early Buddhists, Mahayana Buddhism; Upanisadic, Nyaya, Epic; Kierkegaard, Spinoza, Wittgenstein, Derrida), and also analyses of the model from contemporary and comparative perspectives.

Some of the central themes this Symposium will discuss include:

• What are the “illnesses” that afflict ourselves as subjects, to which philosophy might be cathartic?

• What is the content of the medical analogy? Is the medicine a curative, a tonic, or a prophylactic?

• Why do both Sextus Empiricus and the Buddha regard the medicine that is philosophy to be an emetic, purging itself as well as the disease?

• What is the role of the sage or wise person, for example Yajñavalkya in the Upanisads or the Stoic Sage?

• What is the relation between philosophy as treatment and ‘indirect communication’ (Kierkegaard)?