Philosophical Counseling

Interview broadcast during the Midday Show of Blue Danube Radio on October 13, 1998


Blue Danube Radio: Today, we have got with us Dr. Eugen-Maria Schulak. Hello.

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Hello.

Blue Danube Radio: I have spent a good forty-five minutes this morning on studying philosophy - it's a bit late in life to leave it - and I'd taken out the Encyclopedia Britannica; there are an awful lot of pages about it. I started right at the beginning, may I say before Plato and Socrates. And now it's all up to you, all I can say, Dr. Schulak. What I want to know is: Why isn't philosophy studied in schools nowadays like it used to be?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: (silence)

Blue Danube Radio: (With a mean chuckle) Got him there! (goat-like laughing) You thought I was going to ask you about the meaning of life. For example: The French in school learn philosophy. They have history, geography, maths, and philosophy. In England, the average fifteen-year-old doesn't even know what philosophy is. Is philosophy studied in Austrian schools?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Philosophy is thaught in our high schools only in the final - the eighth - year.

Blue Danube Radio: All right. Let me ask you: What do you remember from your philosophy classes at school?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: (Laughing) Not very much.

Blue Danube Radio: (Laughing as well) So want made you want to become a doctor of philosophy?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: For me, philosophy is a kind of mental game with arguments, and so "game" means that the philosophical dialogue has to be free and easy and should never lead to dogmatic grimness. It will appear spontaneous.

Blue Danube Radio: OK. So, essentially, philosophy is about the meaning of life. Would you agree with me?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Partly, yes.

Blue Danube Radio: (Laughing) Oh, but in that case, please disagree with me. What else is it about?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: It's about ... OK, let's come to my Philosophical Practice. With the aid of a philosophical talk a visitor should be encouraged to show more interest in his surroundings, and - last, but not least - in his very own life. I mean this in an existential way.

Blue Danube Radio: All right. So you are a practitioner of philosophy. You have a "surgery". Somebody will come to you and see you. Why? What are the symptoms that lead one to talk to a philosopher?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: I had a lot of people coming to my Practice - different kinds of people. For instance, a manager came to have me help to sort out questions of order and chaos. Then there was a salesman who wanted to talk about freedom - especially about freedom of will. Then there was an artist who wanted to talk about abstraction, and about fear and sexuality as well. I had a medical doctor who consulted me to talk about medical ethics. So you see, the range is rather broad.

Blue Danube Radio: I see. So, Dr. Schulak, you have a ... well, I can't say "Surgery", because this makes it sound as if these people were sick. So the people that come to you and want to see you - they are not really ill? They want to know something more about their work. I mean, you just said - or you gave me the example of three different people who would come in to talk to you because they wanted to discover more. What, in fact, is the aim of your work?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: I think a Philosophical Practice represents the attempt to apply a philosopher's knowledge in a practical way. By this I mean to open the treasure chest for those who want to profit from philosophy.

Blue Danube Radio: All right. That's fine. So let's say I come to your surgery, your office, and I say I want to have a discussion with you, and I don't even know exactly what about, because I want to work better. My job here could be improved by me thinking along different lines and angles or by discovering more. It is about the interpretation of the knowledge that we have. So what would you say to me to get me to think differently?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Initially, I want the visitor to tell me about himself and about his problems. Then I confront the special interests of a client or a visitor with the different answers philosophy can provide. So I'm a kind of mediator between philosophy and the special individual needs people may have.

Blue Danube Radio: So what then is the difference, for example, between the sort of discussion you might have with a "visitor" - as you call him - compared to the discussion one would have with a psychologist?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: In most cases, people with mental disorders are not capable of engaging in a useful philosophical discussion. As a philosopher, I'm neither able nor willing to do the work of a psychoanalyst. I'm not offering therapy, I'm offering counseling. And if someone who comes to me has psychological problems, I will send him or her to a specialist. But, on the other hand, no one is totally free from mental suffering. The philosophical talk definitely also has an aspect of healing, that's for sure.

Blue Danube Radio: Yes, I am fully aware of that. If you discuss anything with anybody it makes it seem less bad. But, essentially, your practice of philosophy is meant to make people feel better. Is that right?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Yes, that's right.

Blue Danube Radio: So let's go back again to your studies. When you were at university and you were studying, you would go back, as I tried to in my Encyclopedia this morning, and study all about Plato and Aristotle and Socrates. What of these people still ... they still have something to offer us, don't they?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: I can't really say what my favorite philosopher is. But I like to read them all, the classical authors - like Plato, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, and I often use their thoughts in my discussions.

Blue Danube Radio: So your favorite philosopher would be?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: I can't really say that. No.

Blue Danube Radio: All right. Let's say then: How can you feel that you say that somebody does not need you any more? They come to talk to you, what, five times in a row. They have five sessions with you for example. You are leading them down whatever path they want to go. At what stage do you say: That's enough, stop, you don't need me any more?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: That will be a goal. Ya!

Blue Danube Radio: (Laughing) All right. So what does one have to do to come and see you? One makes an appointment like for going to see a doctor?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Like that, yes.

Blue Danube Radio: OK. So you are prepared to say, if anybody is listening to this and would like to come and see you, would you like to give us your telephone number?

Eugen-Maria Schulak: My telephone number is 01 - 4021240.

Blue Danube Radio: So if you want to discuss the meaning of life with a philosopher, that's doctor of philosophy Eugen-Maria Schulak. Dr. Schulak, thank you for coming in today.

Eugen-Maria Schulak: Thank you, too.