50 Questions for Mastering the Art of Philosophical Midwifery:

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

The following questions are challenges to both the philosophical community and the wider intellectual community and can be considered as central to a mode of philosophical counseling called philosophical midwifery.

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The Dialectic in Plato’s Republic

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By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.
Adapted and edited for the web by Sean P. Orfila

Philosophical Midwifery as a mode of psychotherapy is based, in part, upon Plato’s rationalism and his dialectic, both of which are explored in depth in his Republic. In the Republic, he builds an imaginary city-state as a contemplative model for the philosopher’s “ascension to reality” (521D), producing in him “the image and likeness of God” (501C).

It is this ascent that is called true philosophy. Whether the political reality of that city-state exists now or in the future is of no concern to the philosopher (592B).

To achieve that end, Plato outlines a threefold goal:

  • To gain an understanding of the mind (533B; 534B);
  • To understand and experience the Idea of the Good (508E; 526E) and
  • To achieve a vision of the Good itself (519D; 540A).

While they are all achieved through the dialectic, this article will only examine an aspect of the first: understanding the mind.

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Saturdays at the Park with Pierre

So today, March 9th I arrived at the park late and there was a discussion already taking place. I was posed several questions.

One of which was if the Apology, or more correctly Defense of the Fables of Homer which Proclus wrote would be acceptable if it were effective, although it may not be exhaustive of all points of attack—since for example it leaves out completely the points against imitation that are argued in Book 10.

I didn’t think so at that moment although later I agreed. The other question was about one of those points that Proclus hadn’t defended—Helen’s hatred of Zeus and decision to “beguile” or “deceive” him.

Nobuya had raised that question and I also had added to the argument thatthe Gods are not to deceive in word or deed—one of the norms in Book 2 following which tales are to be written towards the education of the guardian youth.

Pierre made a comparison with the model of Eve seducing or “beguiling” Adam and leading him to his downfall, the proximate cause of evil. And here is Hera apparently in the same role. But there is good evidence in Homer’s Iliad  that both Zeus and Hera grew following the lovemaking on Mount Ida.

Proclus gives an account in his “Apology” that cites their assimilation and conversion upon the higher, Cronos and Rhea as models. It is said to lead to their perfection. So, the archetype for seduction leading to lovemaking in the Iliad is the cause of perfection, yet the seduction in the Bible and especially in the understanding of it the many have of it is viewed as the downfall of man.

In this exploration a rather curious question was asked, is the practice of courage necessary for lovemaking and Ingmar gave a precise and, to my mind at the time, complete account of it from Book 4. Yet I was troubled and said he was leaving two things out—the relationship with what had been said about Zeus and Hera and the way the parts of the soul came together.

What I ended up haltingly recalling though was the definition of Justice at the end of Book 4 where Plato sets the excellences, Wisdom, Courage, Justice and Sophosune or soundmindedness together. The model was so clear to my mind, it was almost shining, yet my recall was lame.

Ingmar, I think you left out the “power” and began your account of courage with faith. And the united power resulting from the soul as one makesthe state as I described it at the time, a tantric love state, in which the powers of the soul of each part of the soul are united and there is a vertical impulse toward the radiant light of Being and beyond to the Good, the One.

Hmmm . . . any thoughts?

Dreams and the Philosopher

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

It is generally agreed among philosophers and those in the social science that in Plato’s Republic, the training of the philosopher king includes such topics as arithmetic, geometry, harmony, astronomy, and the dialectic, but only a few know that there is another necessary study that Plato says reaches truth.

The truth he refers to is not a general kind of knowledge as with those other studies but a knowledge personal and particular to the individual. Those studies of the philosopher, even the dialectic, do not bring him any closer to the Delphic “know thyself”. Thus, after these general studies are mastered there is still the need to learn personal things about oneself the ignorance of which can have tragic consequences.

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The Dream Master and The Pathologos

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

Those who are led through our way of exploring dreams gain an understanding of themselves, their reality, and the profound nature of the role of the Dream Master. This approach is philosophical rather than psychological because it is a non-interpretive method that draws all the material for the exploration and analysis from the subject, bringing a recognition of how false beliefs are at the basis of one’s problems. The conclusions reached through this method are tested and verified when they are applied to the individual’s own experience. Thus, the exploration of each dream takes the form of a structured dialogue designed to uncover a subject’s belief system and as such it is a rational method.

Analyzing the content of many people’s dreams brings the realization that man is only partly aware in his waking life of the problems, failures, as well as the victories of his waking life. In the waking world that means that dreams play a vital complementary role in man’s psychic life. Equally, since the method of analysis makes this conclusion obvious, the method itself plays a critical role in dream work. For, in learning about dreams the dreamers learn not only about their personal lives, but learn a method of analysis that has far-reaching consequences. Once the method becomes second nature to dreamers, they apply it to other areas of their lives and learn to anticipate the occurrence of problems, find themselves more fully aware in their lives, and recognize more fully what they had previously ignored.

Dream analysis shows that dreams often carry a theme across many dreams, that there is a significant linkage between dreams, and that later dreams correct or modify the conclusions made in earlier dream analysis. The dreamers learn that the maker of dreams must be aware of the dreamers’ personal past since it uses their past history as the material for the dream; that it can artfully select key images from their past to represent the message of the dream; that is has a grasp of what they themselves have ignored from their waking world and reminds them of its significance both in terms of their present life as well as its implications on their past history. The dreamers realize that the maker of dreams must be awake to their life and is even awake in their life in a way that they themselves are not. This brings a greater realization to the dreamers that something beyond them, that is yet present to them, has an intelligibility that works for their personal good and, hence, is providential in its vision. This maker of dreams we call the Dream Master because its mastery is profound in its understanding and most artful in its production.

The dream master presents a special kind of problem to the dreamer, for the failures and successes that are ignored in the waking world become the subjects of the dream. The analysis of dreams discloses this special kind of problem as having its roots in beliefs about oneself that have been formulated in our early youth but which were never articulated and therefore cannot be recalled by the believer. These beliefs have their origin in early experiences in one’s youth, during occasions when families disclose their fundamental and emotionally held beliefs about life, about themselves, and about family members. From them one draws one’s own conclusions, in private, about oneself and the nature of reality. These beliefs are the root cause of our problems because these beliefs are always, in principle, false. These beliefs are never discussed in the family but live as milieu beliefs and taboos within the family.Invariably, these beliefs were shared when we ourselves were in the state of mind or approaching a success that threatened or challenged the beliefs of the family authorities. Thus, later in life, whenever we face analogous situations or states of mind that would threaten those family beliefs, we withdraw and find a solution that preserves or can be reconciled with those family taboos.

These beliefs are given the stamp of authenticity and are made believable because they were revealed by authorities who gave the appearance of being most caring, genuine and sincere. It appeared that they thought enough to share their fundamental convictions and, so, to reject the belief would be tantamount to rejecting them, leaving one to face the possibility of exile and loss of affection. Thus, while these beliefs shape an image of ourselves and our reality, they are, in principle, false and irreconcilable with our highest ideals. These false beliefs are called the pathologos because they are “sick beliefs.” The pathologos’ are the causes of our sense of dissatisfaction and failure in life. When one’s possible achievements are in contradiction to these beliefs, then blocks are experienced that either compromise one’s achievements or precipitate one’s failures.

The dream presents these blocks and sets them within scenes that show their common dynamic and structure within the history of our life. Through analysis we can unlock those personal blocks to our achievement of excellence and come to a way of analysis that opens up the possibility of leading a more rational life.

An Introduction to Platonic Philosophy

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

Man is a curious creature. There appears to be nothing he will not try if it offers the slightest chance of overcoming his sense of alienation. He will go to war, use drugs, get married, and even play golf. Even if it has only the slimmest chance of ending his sense of futility, he will gamble on it.

The sense of being incomplete has driven many into psychotherapy, it can lead one to search the heavens for some clue to one’s destiny, it can awaken a need to meditate in Zen, it can draw one into the priesthood or to coaching little league, and for some it can motivate them to exchange their talent and life’s energies to enrich a corporation in return for a vague promise of financial gain and, possibly, retirement.

But, while nearly anything will be tried, there is one thing that nearly everyone rules out, something that they are sure will never work and that is relying upon one’s own reason to lead to resolvement of their conflicts and their dissatisfaction with life. For, life is lived through the mind, conflicts are only resolved through the mind, and through that solution the unity of life and the mind is recognized.

The realization of the profound unity of our existence is the foundation for a deeper understanding of the mystery of our existence. The way to that realization and understanding is the ancient path of philosophy.

However, the idea of philosophy most people are acquainted with is derived from a European tradition that is hostile, or indifferent, to spiritual goals and metaphysics. Philosophy in the European tradition is an attempt to discover a place for knowledge in history, language, science, and even common sense but not in the quest to know thyself.

Those that have turned to the most profound of Eastern philosophies have discovered in their very quest for the Self that reason and intellect do not play a primary role there either. In our own educational institutions the idea of pursuing a philosophy that is centered around the quest for wisdom would be regarded by most as not only unscientific but irrelevant if not heretical to the direction of contemporary thought and philosophy.

It has been argued by some that in our society that there is a pervasive skepticism and distrust of reason; clearly, it is not that reason has failed, for the truth is that we have ignored our past, not rejected it; our culture has not kept alive the profound traditions of our past. Thus, the claim that philosophy can reach meaning and can explain the dynamics of mind is something most people would find hard to understand.

The ancient Greeks, in contrast with European tradition, had cultivated a philosophy and traditions that centered around the quest for wisdom that had granted them profound spiritual goals.

An adaptation of this philosophy has disclosed that we are in the grip of a strange kind of problem, one that we hadn’t suspected we have. It has been demonstrated that any false belief about oneself and the nature of reality has sufficient force to block one from the attainment of one’s highest aspirations and most meaningful goals.

A further difficulty: They are virtually invisible to the believer. Since they are not identified by the believer as something they themselves believe, they cannot recall it nor reflect upon it. Curiously, then, these false beliefs are accepted as intuitively certain yet are not recognized as being believed by the believer.

Clearly, this is the worst of ignorance, to believe one is intelligent and good enough without realizing the depth of our ignorance and just how far we have slipped from realizing our ideals; while the need for understanding oneself and reality is desperate, we remain indifferent to our plight.

It might be asked, if we are ignorant, how can philosophy offer an approach to the problem of ignorance? The practice of philosophy starts with ignorance, or not knowing, and charts a journey through the intellectual domain to right opinion to understanding and to knowledge or wisdom; it moves as if by a flight of stairs, until one reaches that perfect learning called wisdom.

Being ignorant is the state of mind when one’s false beliefs about oneself and reality block one’s own development. It has been demonstrated that since these false beliefs are irreconcilable with one’s highest goals and aspirations that they are the inevitable cause of our failures and disillusionment with our lives.

When you learn the right opinion you have the right answer without understanding the reasons why it is a right opinion. The way to discover these reasons is, of course, the exercise of reason. Again, someone may ask what kind of reasoning and practice is this that can eliminate those beliefs that you never knew you believed?

Well, reason is what it is, whenever the conditions allow it to be, then it naturally emerges. The way reason functions in philosophy is no different than the way it functions in the sciences. Consider, do we not say that reason allows us to discover the causes of the patterns we observe? The patterns can be in our behavior, in our dreams, or into the sub-atomic world of quarks and super-strings.

When we search into the causes of the patterns discovered in the heavens, it is called cosmology; when it is into the causes of our believing false beliefs, into the processes of reaching understanding, and into the nature of mind, it is called philosophy. If what is found to lie at the root of man’s irrational behavior are false beliefs, then the discipline that identifies and resolves these false beliefs through the exercise of understanding is what should be cultivated. The struggle to reach understanding develops the understanding; the struggle to get out of problems is the cultivation of understanding.

Surely, now, if this is true there should be a way to lead another to an exploration of their particular problem. There should be a way to find the false beliefs that underlie each problem. Each problem has its own unique roots but since the general form of all problems is much the same, then, a set of questions should be designed to serve this need. Indeed, a set of questions has been developed to meet this very need.

These questions have introduced people into self reflection and many people to the art of delivering oneself of false beliefs. They were designed to be part of a program to teach this art. It was called “A Guide For Your Reflections: A Journey into Philosophical Midwifery” and we have adapted them for your reflections.

These questions will bring to the surface the nature of a person’s problem, either your own problem or someone you might care to share them with. It does take some skill to fully understand the material brought up by the questions, but when they are reflected upon again and again, the mind is brought to see distinctions and connections in the material and that network of connections found in the material becomes the basis of a new understanding of oneself and reality.

It is like the polishing of a gem – it can gain luster by repeated polishing.