The new image of the person (by Peter Koestenbam) – Introduction

Green Tea Way

The new image of the person‘, written by Peter Koestenbam, is the first book (1978) about clinical philosophy and ‘set out the essential contributions of philosophy to counseling’ [Wikipedia, Philosophical counseling].

It’s a 500 pages book for ‘those who wish to practice clinical philosophy’ [P. Koestenbam, The new image of the person, Preface].

Here I’m going to write down some notes about the introduction.

– Philosophy deepens therapy, it doesn’t replace it.

– Each psychological cause is a symptom (metaphor) for a deeper philosophical condition, the fact that one doesn’t take responsability for asking the basic philosophical questions: Who am I? What is my meaning? What is intimacy?

– The four relevant factors in this approach are: freedom, self-understanding, meaning, love.

– The most relevant philosophic positions to psychology are Phenomenology and Existentialism.


It’s the first (of three) expressions that illustrate the relationship between Philosophy and Psychology.

Constitution: from the raw material of being is carved out the phenomenon of individuality and the concept of an ego.

It is the central issue both in theory and in practice of psychotherapy.

Deconstitution: by eliminating or putting out of action the assumptions implicit in the experience of being an isolated ego, the experience of surrender to the world emerges, and with it arises the sense of oneness with the universe.

This point provides the sense of peace and eternity that may be the answer to suffering and anxiety about death. Security which can result from deconstitution of the individual is a second central issue in therapy.


It’s the second expression to define the Philosophy – Psychology relationship.

It refers to the philosophical anthropology or theory of man that emerges when we interpret the phenomenon of being human as an act which gathers in meaning.


It’s the third expression to define the Philosophy – Psychology relationship.

It refers to clinical use of the phenomenological model of being and existential personality theory. It makes diagnostic suggestions.

Each person is alike in her essential philosophical structure. But the pictures in term of which each person feels and thinks of her life are different.

–> The truly creative therapist will invent a distinct psychology for each of his patients.

– METAPHOR /symbol, myth, symptom)

The Literal truth about being and about persons is expressed in Philosophy as the phenomenological model of being.

When we use the body and its behavior as a symbol for philosophic truth we get the important and useful mythology of Psychology.

When we use the spirit as root-symbol we get Religion and theology.

Psychology and Religion can serve equally well to manage in metaphoric form the basic questions of Philosophy.

From the point of view of clinical philosophy the sense of worth derives ultimately from experiencing one’s ontological foundation, a ground which is always there but is not always perceived. This is a universal fact of existence, a philosophic discovery available to everyone at all times. Parental love does not produce security, it helps discovering it.

–> Security is not a psychological feeling but a philosophical fact. A person in secure, grounded, and at home by virtue of his nature, because of his relationship to his consciousness and to the universe. Every person is worthy, safe and secure due to his or her nature and not by virtue of the idiosyncrasies of a particular childhood or environment.

If we go one level deeper then psychology permit, we discover a foundation, a home and answers at the core of every human being. This is where philosophic therapy must reach.

–> Psychological explanations of human distress, especially when reference is made to its origin in early childhood, have an air of fatalism about them. It is thought that damage done in early life may well be irreversible. Without denying the power of these psychological insights, we must nevertheless also integrate into our thinking the fact that we are at this very moment free to discover our philosophic nature (which means we have access to our foundations) and free, on the basis of this security, to reconstruct our lives.

The philosophic facts about a person’s essential human nature can be taught at any time. The philosophy of personality is self-determining rather then fatalistic.


First level (base): The philosophic analysis of the human condition represents the most literal statement possible.

Second level: The management of these underlying philosophical realities is often relegated to metaphor. Spirit/Religion; Nature/Art and literature; Body/Psychoterapy.

Third level: less intensive activity.

Fourth level (point): most shallows of the healing arts, self-help books.



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