A reflection on the role of philosophy as therapy

A discussion on the personal meaning of philosophy and gender studies being one. 2 minutes to read.

In my project to assert gender studies and philosophy and being one in the same, with the help of my professor, we discovered a line of thought coursing through this concept that I myself didn’t really pick up on until it was put into words by her. What I was aiming at was to try and reconcile two different fields I had an interest in. In this reflection though, I want to explore that therapeutic current more.

Through my own gender studies, I always felt like there was a deep connection into some of the same major questions of philosophy: what is the nature of our existence, what is identity, what do we do to live a good life, how do we make the world better. At the end, maybe I see gender studies as being just a subset of philosophy- the philosophy of gender, philosophy of sexuality, philosophy aiming to speak critically to the state of the world. That last conception is not a controversial statement, Marx’s own goal was to change the world rather than merely interpret it.

Philosophy for me has always been a therapeutic endeavor, personally. My first ethics class at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was a pretty low-key affair, my teacher was, as far as I know, a retired Presbyterian preacher, and I was the only person that consistently stayed awake in the class (rare for, at the time, extremely depressed me). When he’d speak of the way that ethics compels us to doing good, and he’d speak of the forms and how, at the end of it all, we have a facsimile of what actually is as our only window into the world, it always spoke to a part of me I knew was there but couldn’t express.

My therapy was philosophy, and though I’m a very irreligious person, hearing people waxing philosophical gave me a comfort that got me through the dark times of my life. When you see people reaching for that which they can’t fully express and a sort of universal truth, you are witnessing a light inside the person that wonders; everyday life doesn’t give you access to that. Everyday life gives you transactions and exchanges, often not willing to give you the messy and unsure.

This might all be getting too touchy-feely, but that’s the point. Therapy is personal. I spent all my life until about age thirteen not being sure why I always felt out of place, misunderstood, and like I wasn’t playing my part right. I still don’t feel like I’ve got a grasp on the world yet, but I’m better now. And in the dark night that social ostracization and an unsureness of self causes, I ultimately still knew that there was a real me in there somewhere, that there was a identity I just haven’t put together. Philosophy laid down the status of what a person without self-description is. Gender studies has helped to give words for that self-description. Without each other they nothing.