Socrates Café™ - Renton Area Pages

A Summary of key concepts/points of Socrates Café™
• No background knowledge or studying is required.
• An approach that takes philosophy "out of the ivory tower and back into the lives of ordinary people, where it belongs."
• New habits of discourse with the primary purpose to become a more independent and thorough thinker and doer; a more expert questioner and listener.
• The aim is to create a more vibrant and participatory democracy and empathetic society, through a respectful exploring of the participants' various viewpoints.
• It is NOT a debate or exercise in pushing your viewpoints.
• Disrespecting other's views will not be tolerated.
• It is not enough to have the courage of your convictions, but you must also have the courage to have your convictions challenged.


Introduction We all philosophize. Whether it’s when we are asked for our ethical/moral opinion, or we ask ourselves “Why..?” or “What if..?” Never studied philosophy? Haven't read Nietzsche or Kierkegaard? Don't even know who they are? Then Socrates Café may be the philosophy group for you. It's an approach that takes philosophy "out of the ivory tower and back into the lives of ordinary people, where it belongs." It's where people from different backgrounds get together and exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences while embracing the central theme of Socratizing; the idea that we learn more when we question and question with others. ” Philosophy is a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means. It deals with questions which are abstract and very general.

The Concept: Socrates Café is meant to be a thoughtful and reflective philosophical sharing. Each participant must need and want to cultivate his/her capacity to become a more careful listener -- indeed, the ability to listen with all one's being to what other participants are sharing is the most important quality a Socrates Cafe-goer can have. Socrates Cafe is meant to cultivate new habits of discourse in which the primary purpose is to inspire each person within the community of inquiry further to cultivate and discover his/her unique point of view, nothing more and certainly nothing less. It is meant to be the exact opposite of the mindless types of debates and diatribes where those who speak the loudest and interrupt the most and browbeats the best, "wins," whatever that could mean.

Remember, Socrates presented himself as a perplexed inquirer who knew only that he knew nothing. By example, he showed that the proper business of the philosopher is to help us see that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we know. It’s not about coming up with answers but finding a way to ask the questions, which, in a way, is the answer.

For more details on the Socratic Method, see: http://www.philosophe...


Attendees bring questions to discuss. They are voted on and discussion starts with the top vote getter. We may spend the entire time with one question, or move thru several. What kind of question is appropriate? Any question that is on your mind. The questions don't at all have to be traditional ones. The best questions are those that leave you feeling the least expert and the most curious and perplexed. Questions that leave you feeling that the ground is shaking a little bit under your feet are those that are most worth interrogating Socratically (whereas, questions in which you already think you know "the answer," will be a very empty exercise). In a Socrates Café, just about any question can be grist for a meaningful dialogue. Or at least, virtually any question can be fine-tuned so it can be looked at in a philosophical way…

• Example 1 - A person wanted to discuss the execution of Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. The question was expanded to include other related philosophic important issues, and became: “Who owns human life?”

• Example 2 - People wanted to discuss the appropriateness of the Iraq war. To look at it in both abstract and concrete ways, and apply to wars in general, the question was framed as: "What is a just war?"

• Example 3 - To discuss the “gay marriage issue” in a philosophical way, and avoid an emotional charged debate, but that would still examine the issue thoughtfully and in a way in which gay marriage was looked at in the broader context of the institution of marriage as a whole, the question became: "What is an excellent marriage?"

For more details on Questions, see: http://www.philosophe...


Socrates Café DOs and DON’Ts.

Do be an active and engaged listener. Respecting the ideas of each participant is a key element of a successful Socrates Café. Putting down others is absolutely taboo at a Socrates Café.

Do encourage participants to offer specific examples that back up what they take to be a universally accepted view.
Support perspectives with cogent, well-constructed, reasoned views.

Do question the perspectives offered by others and try to examine any perceived logical inconsistencies. The collective goal is for all participants to become a more expert questioner.

Don't strive for consensus. It doesn't matter if everyone begins and ends a dialogue with disparate perspectives. There's never any need to try to force any sort of agreement.

Don't try to bring the discussion to any sort of artificial closure. A Socrates Café is considered a success when participants leave a discussion with many more questions than they had at the beginning.

Putting down others is absolutely taboo at a Socrates Café.

For more details on DOs and DON’Ts, see http://www.philosophe...


More resources:

• Socrates Café, A Fresh Taste of Philosophy by Christopher Phillips, ISBN 0-393-32298-X
• Listen to Christopher Phillips discuss questions on public radio: http://www.philosophe...
• Society for Philosophical Inquiry & Socrates Café web site: http://www.philosophe...

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Group Description September 2, 2012 5:01 PM anonymous
Past Discussions January 26, 2011 9:47 PM anonymous
About Socrates Café™ - Renton Area July 30, 2014 6:54 PM anonymous

Renton, WA

Founded Aug 17, 2008

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Bob Louden and 4 more…
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