Socrates Cafe -- the book

From: John D.
Sent on: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 5:46 PM
The book by Christopher Phillips called _Socrates Cafe: a fresh taste of 
philosophy_ (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001) presents his take 
on the Socratic method and recounts many illustrative dialogues from his 
Socrates Cafe meetings.

In brief, he presents a Socratic method that:

* rekindles "childlike sense of wonder" from philosophical inquiry (p. 8)

* encourages questions that lead to more questions and tentative answers 
that get questioned (p. 8)

* encourages interrogation from many vantage points (p. 18)

* comes up with no universal agreement on any concept, but helps each 
person gain a different take on it (p. 19)

* fosters discussions that may reveal a range of "hypotheses, 
convictions, conjectures and theories" with the goal to "honestly and 
openly, rationally and imaginatively" ask questions: what does this 
mean?  what supports it?  are there alternate ways of considering it? 
(p. 23)

* encourages discussions that are not just "a series of non sequiturs," 
but participants "react to and critically examine and build upon one 
another's perspectives..." (p. 49)

* helps "people give birth to their own ideas, and to work through the 
particular beliefs by which they could choose to live." (p. 207)

Phillips tells of his encounters with academic philosophers who seem 
uncomfortable with this method, particularly since it rejects the use of 
academic jargon and does not recognize knowledge specialists.

Phillips gives example (illustrative, not actual) dialogues from his 
Socrates Cafe meetings.  He centers his meetings around a main question, 
leading to inquiry that breaks down the question into further questions. 
  Participants give their own perspectives and tentative answers based 
on the different perspectives brought up.  In the end, each participant 
might get a fresh perspective on the original question and more to think 
about.

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