Launched twenty years ago by our founder Christopher Phillips, Socrates Café has gone on to become an oasis of reasonableness in a desert of rising intolerance and fundamentalism around the world — from Montana to Mumbai, Portland to Tokyo. Hundreds of groups now convene far and wide in public places and spaces, including cyberspace, but also in bricks and mortar locales like schools, churches, community centers, nursing homes, prisons, shelters for homeless families, libraries.
Those who take part in Socrates Cafés share the sensibility of the fifth century BC philosopher Socrates that continual close encounters with others of a philosophical kind, engaging in impassioned yet thoughtful exchanges of ideas and ideals, is a portal to sculpting what the Greeks of old called Arête —all-around excellence, of a sort that is an individual and collective pursuit rolled into one.
As motley people break philosophical bread together on a regular basis, close connections are often forged among the strangest bedfellows. If you were a fly on the wall at one of these gatherings, you’d see that Socrates Café-goers in action are an inquisitive, open, curious, and playful bunch —childlike, in a word. Christopher fond of saying that Socrates Café is for “children of all ages,” because these gatherings bring out our innate inquisitiveness and sense of wonder.
When Christopher Phillips began Socrates Cafe in 1996, he did so after asking himself what he could do that would in some modest way further the deeds of those noble souls who had come before him and, as William James put it, “suffered and laid down their lives” to better the lot of humankind? The epiphany and also the answer for him was to be a philosopher in the mold of Socrates, and to hold Socratic dialogues with anyone and everyone who’d like to engage in a common quest to gain a better understanding of human nature – who shared with him the aspiration of becoming more empathetic people and more critical and creative thinkers and doers.
Today, there are hundreds of ongoing gatherings around the globe coordinated by hundreds of dedicated volunteers who are deeply committed to making ours a more participatory and inclusive world. We encourage you to facilitate your own Socrates Café, click here for information on how to start one.
If you are interested in sponsoring Christopher Phillips, our founder, to facilitate a Socrates Café, give a presentation, and or/hold a facilitators workshop, please contact us.