That Bad Person and Poor Me

    YOUTH: Before coming to the decision to visit you once more today, that is to say, before making the firm resolution to abandon Adler, I went through a great deal of distress. It troubled me more than you can imagine. That’s how attractive Adler’s ideas were to me. But the fact is that at the same time as I was attracted to them, I was harbouring doubts all along. And those doubts concern the name ‘Adlerian psychology’ itself.
    PHILOSOPHER: Hmm. What do you mean?
    YOUTH: As the name ‘Adlerian psychology’ indicates, Adler’s ideas are regarded as psychology. And, as far as I am aware, psychology is essentially a science. When it comes to the opinions put forth by Adler, however, there are aspects that strike me as decidedly unscientific. Of course, as this is an area of study that deals with the psyche, it might not be completely expressible in mathematical form. That I understand perfectly well. But the problem, you see, is that Adler talks about people in terms of ‘ideals’. He’s offering up the same kind of cloying sermons that Christians do when they preach about neighbourly love. Which brings me to my first question: do you think of Adlerian psychology as a ‘science’?
    PHILOSOPHER: If you are speaking of a strict definition of science, that is to say, a science that has falsifiability, then no, it is not. Adler declared his psychology to be a ‘science’, but when he began talking about his concept of ‘social feeling’, many of his colleagues parted ways with him. Their judgement was much like yours: ‘That sort of thing isn’t science.’
    YOUTH: Right. That’s a natural response for anyone who is interested in psychology as a science. PHILOSOPHER: This is an ongoing area of debate, but Freud’s psychoanalysis, Jung’s analytical psychology and Adler’s individual psychology all have aspects that come into conflict with such a definition of science in that they do not have falsifiability. This is a fact.
    YOUTH: Okay, I see. I’ve brought my notebook with me today. I’m going to get this down in writing. That strictly speaking . . . it is not science! Now to my next question: three years ago, you referred to Adler’s ideas as ‘another philosophy’, did you not?
    PHILOSOPHER: You are correct, I did. I think of Adlerian psychology as a way of thinking that follows in the same vein as Greek philosophy and is itself a philosophy. I think the same way about Adler himself. Before regarding him as a psychologist, I see him as a philosopher. He is a philosopher who put his expertise to practical use in clinical settings. This is my perception.
    YOUTH: All right. So, here’s my main point. I thought hard about Adler’s ideas, and I really put them into practice. I wasn’t sceptical about them. Rather, it was as if those ideas filled me with a feverish passion, and I believed in them with all my heart. The thing is, whenever I have tried to practise Adler’s ideas in an educational setting, the opposition has been overwhelming. I have been opposed not only by the students,
    but by the other teachers around me. But if you think about it, that makes sense. Because I was presenting an approach to education based on a value system that is completely different from theirs and attempting to put it into practice there for the first time. And then, I happened to recall a certain group of people, and I superimposed their circumstances onto mine . Do you know who I am talking about?
    PHILOSOPHER: Well, no, I don’t. Who could it be?
    YOUTH: The Catholic missionaries who forayed into the heathen lands during the Age of Discovery.
    YOUTH: Africa, Asia and the Americas. Those Catholic missionaries journeyed into strange lands where the languages, cultures and even gods were different, and they went around espousing the teachings they believed in. Just like me, who took my post to espouse the ideas of Adler. The missionaries, too, though they often succeeded in propagating their faith, also experienced oppression and were sometimes even executed by barbaric methods. One would think it common sense that such people would simply be turned away. But if so, how on earth could these missionaries have succeeded in preaching a new ‘god’ to the inhabitants of the places they visited, and making them give up their native beliefs? It must have been work of considerable difficulty. Craving to know more, I ran to the library.

    PHILOSOPHER: But that’s . . .
    YOUTH: Hey, I’m not finished, okay? So, while I was poring over various writings on the missionaries of the Age of Discovery, another
    interesting thought occurred to me: when it comes down to it, isn’t Adler’s philosophy a religion? PHILOSOPHER: Interesting . . .
    YOUTH: Because it’s true, isn’t it? The ideals Adler talks about are not science. And to the extent that they are not science, in the end it is just a question of one’s level of faith, of either believing or not believing. So, again, it is just about one’s feeling. It is true that from our point of view, people who don’t know Adler may seem like savage primitives who believe in false gods. We feel that we must teach them the real ‘truth’ and save them, as quickly as possible. However, it may be that from their vantage point, we are the ones who are primitive worshippers of wicked gods. Maybe we are the ones who need to be saved. Am I wrong? PHILOSOPHER: No, you are quite right. YOUTH: Then, tell me: What is the difference between the philosophy of Adler and religion?
    PHILOSOPHER: The difference between religion and philosophy; this is an important theme. If you just rule out the existence of ‘god’ and think about it then the discussion will be easier to understand. YOUTH: Ah. What do you mean? PHILOSOPHER: With religion, philosophy and science, too, the point of departure is the same. Where do we come from? Where are we? And how should we live? Religion, philosophy and science all start from these questions. In ancient Greece, there was no division between philosophy and science, and the Latin root of the word ‘science’ is scientia, which simply means ‘knowledge’. YOUTH: Fine, that’s how science was back then. But I am asking about philosophy and religion. What is the difference between them? PHILOSOPHER: It would probably be better to clarify their points of commonality first. Unlike science, which limits itself to objective fact-finding, philosophy and religion also deal with human ideas of ‘truth’, ‘good’ and ‘beauty’. This is an extremely important point.
    YOUTH: I know. It is philosophy and religion that delve into the human psyche. But where, then, are the boundary lines and points of difference between the two? Is it just that single question of whether god exists?
    PHILOSOPHER: No. The most important point of difference is the presence or absence of ‘story’. Religion explains the world by means of stories. You could say that gods are the protagonists of the grand stories that religions use to explain the world. By contrast, philosophy rejects stories. It tries to explain the world by means of abstract concepts that have no protagonists.
    YOUTH: Philosophy rejects stories?
    PHILOSOPHER: Or, think of it this way: in our search for truth, we are walking on a long pole that extends into the darkness. Doubting our common sense and engaging in continual self-questioning, we just continue to walk on that pole without any idea of how far it may go. And then, from out of the darkness one hears a voice inside saying, ‘Nothing further lies ahead. Here is truth.’
    YOUTH: Huh . . .
    PHILOSOPHER: So, some people stop listening to their internal voice and stop walking. They jump down from the pole. Do they find truth there? I don’t know. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But stopping in one’s steps and jumping off the pole midway is what I call religion. With philosophy, one keeps walking without end. It doesn’t matter if gods are there or not.
    YOUTH: Then, this walking-without-end philosophy doesn’t have any answers?
    PHILOSOPHER: In the original Greek, philosophia has the meaning ‘love of wisdom’. In other words, philosophy is the ‘study of the love of wisdom’, and philosophers are ‘lovers of wisdom’. Conversely, one could say that if a person were to become a complete ‘wise man’ who knows all there is to know, that person would no longer be a lover of wisdom (philosopher). In the words of Kant, the giant of modern philosophy, ‘We cannot learn philosophy. We can only learn to philosophise.’ YOUTH: To philosophise?
    PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Philosophy is more of a living attitude than a field of study. Religion may convey all under the name of god. It may convey an all-knowing, almighty god and the teachings handed down by that god. This is a way of thinking that conflicts fundamentally with philosophy. And with someone who purports to know everything, or someone who has stopped in their path of knowing and thinking, regardless of their belief in the existence or nonexistence of god, or even the  presence or absence of their faith, they are venturing into religion. That is my view on the matter. YOUTH: In other words, you still don’t know the answers? PHILOSOPHER: No, I do not. The instant we feel that we know about a subject, we want to seek beyond it. I will always think about myself, other people and the world. Therefore, I will ‘not know’ without end. YOUTH: Heh-heh. That answer is philosophical, too. PHILOSOPHER: Socrates, in his dialogues with the self-described wise men known as the Sophists, arrived at the following conclusion: I (Socrates) know that ‘my knowledge is not complete’. I know my own ignorance. The Sophists, on the other hand, those would-be wise men, intend to understand everything and know nothing of their own ignorance. In this respect—my knowledge of my own ignorance—I am more of a wise man than they are. This is the context of Socrates’ famous statement, ‘I know that I know nothing.’ YOUTH: Then, what can you, who have no answers and are ignorant, impart to me? PHILOSOPHER: I will not impart. Let’s think and walk together. YOUTH: Ah, to the end of the pole? Without jumping off? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Keep inquiring and keep walking, without limit. YOUTH: You’re so confident, even though you say that sophistry won’t hold water. All right. I’m going to shake you down off that pole!
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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