As an intimate act of personal archaeology, career counselling excavates the psychological, social, and cultural past of an individual so as to inductively understand the present. Then, on the basis of this knowledge, the counsellor and client cast their psychological eyes into the future so as to imaginatively co-construct a story that may, or may not, generate active engagement in the world of work. This creative process of being and becoming can be traced to the philosophical treatises of Kierkegaard, Hume, James, and Nietzsche.
Can career counselling be a solution to Kierkegaard’s (1843/1967) problem of living life forward by knowing it backward? It can be; but, only if, paradoxically, one bravely accepts that this putative knowledge of the future that is inductively created on the basis of the past is little more than emotive guesswork, if not a folly that should be tentatively grasped with fingers crossed behind one’s back, hoping that one’s predictions may come true.
It was David Hume (1748/2007) who challenged induction as a way of knowing the future. Hume suggested that humans believe in their predictions as result of intrinsic psychological architecture. Humans are inherently disposed toward committing the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc or cum hoc ergo propter hoc (i.e., after this therefore because of this; with this therefore because of this). In other words, that B followed A, is no reason to believe A caused B; and, that A and B occur simultaneously is no reason to draw a causal relationship between the two.
William James (1890/1952) deepened this idea in his argument that humans experience time because they experience thinking, metaphorically, like the flowing of a stream. Furthermore, James argued that consciousness of series (e.g., one event following another after another, and so on) is the source of rational thinking. Humans are not only psychologically capable of discerning series; they aim to do so in order to make sense of events they observe. Storying relies on this sense of time and inductive thinking so as to create connections between one moment in life and the next, ad infinitum.
Notwithstanding the flaw of inductive thinking, it is in existential torment that one must carry on with life, believing, and hoping, that the future can be known, albeit a fiction that is composed as an open-ended story that seems to contiguously follow on from the previous chapter of a life (i.e., post hoc ergo propter hoc). This fiction is exactly what people construct in order to make sense of their past and current phenomenal world, and it is this fictional existence that permits the activity of narrative career counselling as a way of knowing. In this way, counselling produces therapeutic truth—a benign white lie with generative intent. Accordingly, career counselling, especially narrative career counselling because it is the most doubtable form of personal knowing toward the creation of personal truths, has no more compelling a purchase on creating personal truths than psychoanalysis, which is a most exquisite form of personal archaeology.
I use pragmatism (James, 1907/2000) as an epistemology of personal truth, that which I call “pragmatic ideographic truth”. Continue reading