A Dialogue On SF Philosophy


This is a series of dialogue between Dr Dean-David Holyoake and Eva Golding on the underpinning philosophy of the SF approach. There are no definite answers to the questions, they are just pondering on some philosophical issues.

1. Will you know how to theorise Positioning? (the process and purpose of Historicism)
Eva: Historicism emphasises the importance of history as determinant of events, societies and individuals. So the process and purpose of Historicism is to fix an individual to a particular position in a particular society and culture.

Dean: History is His-stories:
History is the starting point
History is the end point
History is valued narrative nervously cherished
History is identity as grand, meta and micro narrative

Key Links:

Key Most Up-to Date Thinkers:

Concerns of Previous Thinkers:

• How to determine ‘purposeful conversation’? (Needs, Outcomes and Goal setting).
• Negotiating skeleton keys eg scaling, miracle outcomes, exceptions in terms of history.
• Working out method to refocus on emergence: story / narrative as opposed to developmental cycles, processes

2. Which type of acting Relative do I do? (the death of Identity as we know it)
Eva: Relative means there is no fixed meaning of anything. In terms of Identity, the relativists view our sense of identity is not fixed but fluid, it depends on who, when and in which social cultural context an individual is positioned.

Dean: Relativity: A real post-modernist concern
Often criticised for fatalism, nilhism and as a soft option
Relativism takes up the ‘mediation’ philosophies of continental philosophy

Key Links:

Key Challenges to Application:
Anti – CBT
Relativism never travels alone, it always involves a re-thinking involving other key philosophical issues which makes things complex for the practitioner.
Relativism is perceived as attempting to undermine rationalism at the expense of neglecting reality, rationalism and positivism.

3. Do I see Essential Anti-Essentialism?
Eva: Essentialism is a belief in the modernity period which related to truism and positivism, it is a belief about the absolute of things that was largely brought about by the faith in scientific pursues. And the scientific pursue then was the dominant paradigm used for seeking knowledge. So Anti-Essentialism could mean the dispute of the essentialist beliefs. Therefore Essential Anti-Essentialism could mean that it is absolutely necessary to be anti-Essentialism.

A failed 20th century project
Modernism incarnate
Inseparable from Humanism
Anti Essentialism is a core concern for SFNP

Key Ideas & Links:
Agency & Freewill

Key Theorists:

Application Issues:
Most people will perceive their existence hermeneutically and phenomenologically as individualistic, purposeful and autonomic. This had generated a particular view and expectation of psychotherapeutic approaches.
Overcoming a ‘person centred’ perception in psychotherapy is our current SF challenge.

4. When do Representation, Meaning and Language come into play?
Eva: Meaning is conveyed, described, shared and understood through the use of representations shared amongst people who are in the same ‘culture’. Language is a representational system used by communicators, anything that conveys meaning is a language.

The Apparatus for Construction:
Representation is best understood using semiology
Anything that has meaning is represented through structures
Language is the structure which enables this

The notion of structures allows for something post Humanism.
The decenturing and deconstruction of essentialist ideals is the SFNP challenge.
The key for doing this is not through the advancement of individual sentiments of essentialism, but the exploration of positioning, relativity and anti-essentialism.

5. How do we go from Language to Culture to Discourse?
Eva: Representations i.e. language are systems by which meaning can be conveyed between individuals. When there is a group of individuals who use the same representational systems to convey certain meaning, the shared meaning and practices form a culture. Within any society, there are various representational practices and therefore there are many cultures or cultural practices, each provides subjects to talk about and live life by, this can be seen as a body of knowledge, a discourse.

Application Discourse:
For practitioners the key issues are how do we begin to emerge interactions, interventions and strategies for enabling people to reassess, reaffirm and engage with discourse (powerful structures)?
What are the SF practices which reaffirm our relationships with the structures governing our lives?

Combined Issues:
Shared Meaning

6. What are the Ethics of a helping session using the SF Approach?
Eva: To be able to understand that clients have been positioned within their particular social context or culture and so they come with related belief system and values. Change occurs when they are able to shift from their old discourse to a preferred discourse. So the whole process of the SF Approach is about shifting and changing, deconstructing and co-constructing. So, a SF helping session is about having a conversation and working together with the client drawing on resources from the client, through interaction ‘things’ would emerge that might be helpful to the clients.

Ethical Positioning:
What are the key SFNP ethics?

It appears to me that ethics are for the Humanists.
Need to expand.

Key Thinkers:

Question 7 is coming up soon.


Dr Dean-David Holyoake and Eva Golding

This course might interest you: Beyond SF Technique, Performing Discourse

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