The idea behind the Socrates Café is to engender open, honest, and rational discussion. In the Socratic tradition, the emphasis is on questioning, exploring, and learning. Debate, and pontification, are discouraged.
The tone is generally "philosophical," but we are not especially rigorous in our approach. Understanding the widest possible variety of perspectives to arrive at our own best approximation of the truth of any of the topics we explore is the point of our engagement.
The only requirement is curiosity. The only guidelines are courtesy, compassion, and patience. Okay fine, that's not entirely true. We also hold humor in high regard. Extra points are awarded for making us laugh.
Socrates cafe is based on a book by author Christopher Phillips (http://www.amazon.com/Socrates-Cafe-Fresh-Taste-Philosophy/dp/039332298X), then a freelance writer asked himself what he could do that would in some modest way further the deeds of those noble souls who had come before him, especially Socrates who emphasized conversations between ordinary folks.
There are no prerequisites, and no reading or other preparation is required. Bring a question that has been on your mind to discuss if you like. If no question occurs to you, come along anyway. There are always enough questions to keep us going.
You show up. You share a beer or coffee with smart friendly people. We make a list of questions to discuss, which can be just about anything. The best questions are ones you do not know the answer to. "What is good?" "Is there life after death?" "What does it mean to be a good friend?" are all good examples from past cafes.
If we have more than 10 people, we may break into smaller groups so there is enough oxygen in every conversation.
Our 5 Rules:
1. Open minds only. Consider the behavior of an open minded person. Be like that.
2. We ask you listen more than you speak - if you want to learn, you'll learn more by listening than speaking. Be curious.
3. No lectures, no matter how smart you are.
4. Really, no lectures. Come to convince yourself of something new, rather that convince others of what you already know.
5. Any of the facilitators/organizers have the right to run the conversation, or move the conversation on to a new question at any time they wish: often its because a rule is being broken or people are yawning themselves to death.