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Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  962 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
A modern-day Socrates takes to the road to bring philosophy back to the people. Journalist-turned-philosopher Christopher Phillips is on a mission: to revive the love of questions that Socrates once inspired in ancient Athens. With great charisma and optimism, he travels around the country, gathering people to participate in Socrates cafes in bookstores, senior centers, el ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2001)
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John Martindale
Sep 19, 2011 John Martindale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Bob Kuhn
Shelves: philosophy
The book has inspired me to try and start a Socrates Cafe near the universities in Uptown New Orleans, once I get back to the city. I love philosophical discussion and yeah, getting to engage in dialog with people who will likely have a very different world-view then my own, would be most challenging for me and would help me expand my boundaries and grow in understanding.
Kate Woods Walker
Jun 12, 2011 Kate Woods Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accessible and readable, Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy by ex-journalist and philosophy booster Christopher Phillips tells the triune story of how he came to create the Socrates Cafe concept, what happens at a Socrates Cafe discussion, and how to start a philosophical discussion group of your own.

If you've ever wanted to explore the deeper meanings of everyday subjects, if you feel the common man has a right to question the dogma of his/her culture, or if you just want to know what y
I'm only on page 22, but so far this is one of the most boring, repetitive books I have ever read. Possibly even more repetitive than Green Eggs and Ham.
Jun 17, 2013 Rsoeffker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be read if you fall into one or more of these categories:
1. You have never heard of philosophy and have never questioned anything in your life.
2. You love hearing people gloat about themselves.

This entire book is one giant collection of transcription from his chats. Very little unique insight or ideas are in this book. The characters are typically social rejects who have serious mental psychosis. You will learn about many dull, pathetic characters such as:
1. The man in the renta
Sep 13, 2016 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The whole point of this book is to show how a Socratic dialogue can take place outside of the academic world, in public places, with anyone. Christopher Phillips shows how philosophy can be applied in real life, how it can change peoples lives, and how it can happen anywhere. He even tells you how to start a Socrates Café on your own.

I never went to school for philosophy. I'm a classical musician and spend most of my time listening to music, practicing, and performing. However, I think the art o
If you want to read this book for entertainment I suggest you find something else. Socrates is insightful and totally worth it to read but it is definitely something thick to wade through. At some points I had to make myself read the text out loud to keep my mind from wandering but at other points I was turning pages as quickly as a fiction novel. This book has changed the way I view many things and most importantly it has taught me to question. I've learned from it that I can change something i ...more
Jun 16, 2010 Divasaurus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in philosophy, those who love thinking
Shelves: philosophy
Borrowed it from the library on a whim, and I loved it. It takes philosophy back to the masses, to the everyday people like you and I, and it gets us to think. [: The writing was really accessible, and you don't need a background in philosophical thought to really engage with the book.

If you love to think abstractly, this is a book for you. If, however, you're one of those really academic types in regards to Philosophy, you might want to sit this one out since it's really for the layman. Unless
Sep 16, 2008 Laine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is what happens when you pitch one line of a book to a publishing company and the author somehow stretches that single line into a 200 page self help book. If I ever read another word about Socrates or how genius asking questions to learn is...It was too much. I felt like i could have read the first paragraph and gotten the entire point of this "book" (which really was a paragraph or so abstract of a page or so essay with a thousands of filler words). If you want to read this, read the back ...more
I honestly didn't finish this one. I reached a point where it started to seem redundant...I love the idea of participating in a Socrates Cafe, but actually reading about them is a little dry.
Feb 07, 2017 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Generally light on philosophy, but nevertheless a compelling read. The author applies the Socratic method to various groups and settings leading to playful exploration of people's ideas, beliefs, and values. This book demonstrates over and over again that there is so much to learn from everyone without the pretense of being among the learned. The most important thing is the willingness to question, while allowing the time for multiple answers unfold and new questions to arise.

Jay S. Levy- Author
Eloísa Pompermayer
Resenha Crítica: Sócrates Café - O Delicioso Sabor da Filosofia!
Sócrates Café é um livro maravilhoso, que traz para a realidade do leitor o amor pelas perguntas, o amor pela indagação, o amor pela essência da filosofia.
"Sempre há mais para se descobrir. Essa é a essência e a magia do que passei a chamar de 'socratizar'."
- Christopher Phillips
O livro narra desde o sonho de Christopher pelas perguntas até a sua decisão de deixar seu emprego e dedicar-se as perguntas, no entanto ele pensa como pode
Robin Friedman
Nov 17, 2016 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To Bring Wisdom To Life

Christopher Phillips has written an engaging, if somewhat over-simple book describing the project of his middle-age. He realized the dream of a lifetime, in becoming a Socratic teacher.

"So-crates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy" describes how Phillips left his life as a free-lance writer for the even more unstable and risk-driven career of teaching people how to question and how to think -- about philosophy in short. And question Phillips does, in cafes, bookstores, pris
Dec 04, 2011 Ahmad rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone studying philosophy
Recommended to Ahmad by: found it for $1 at my bookshop
There are certain things I do not like about this book. One of these is the writing style that the author chooses. It's amateurish to say the least (in fact it reminds me of some of my recent attempts at prose). There is also an effort not to offend since one presumes that most people in this book do exist. That though makes it a tiring and all too polite read. And since when must a writer worry about not offending?
Another fault is the avoidance of "real" issues at the cafes. Lots of talk on wha
Nov 03, 2007 Danine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Peeps who enjoy thinking
My husband and I host philosophical discussions with friends and people within our community. I had posted a public invitation online and someone responded and recommended this book.

I found this book to be inspiring to what we were already doing. It gave me some new ideas for discussions as well as a Socratic perspective.

Phillips describes his philosophical adventures of traveling hosting Socrates Cafes. He holds discussions at senior centers, prisons, elementary schools and cafes. I especially
Aug 30, 2014 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Boy, I tried to like/finish this book. It didn't seem genuine and it was just not something I could finish. Maybe I have read enough on the socratic method in other business books, and just knew the idea enough that all the examples wore me down. Describing each persons appearance, with these examples intended to show you how varied/diverse each of the individuals at the meetings were? It just didn't seem genuine. Not saying it wasn't true, just that I never met anyone who would have all these d ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Matt rated it did not like it
Steaming pile of crap. The author portrays philosophical discussions within a community setting (his own pet project) as though they are both extremely enlightening and enjoyable for the participants, and as if he is doing everyone a favor by holding these events. I was put off by the intolerable self-promotion.
As for content, I did not find it interesting. Chris Phillips basically just meets with random people, uses his “memory” of their discussions to make a point, then inserts references to
Kevin Fodness
May 20, 2009 Kevin Fodness rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A fast romp through various philosophers told through recollections of various "Socrates Cafes" held at coffeehouses, schools, and prisons throughout the country, engaging laypersons in philosophical discussion. It was a quick read, but brought me back to some of the philosophical works I have read in the past (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Locke, Hobbes, etc). There was an entire section devoted to what is essentially social construction, but with no mention of the STS literature on the subject, even ...more
Nov 21, 2008 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is perfect for anyone who's interested in Philosophy who otherwise wouldn't know where to start. Plato has always been one of the most accessible philosophers, but Phillips is able take readers on a tour of many of Plato's favorite subjects in a manner that is fresh and interesting. I found it a very interesting idea because so much of philosophy is a discussion, but I think that the philosophical discussion of scholars is often inaccessible to the average reader. Socrates Cafe takes a ...more
Sep 20, 2011 Jorge rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author talks a lot about how he believes that "the Socratic Method" is useful in discovering more about ourselves. It is an interesting concept. He also gives a brief account of some of the most historically significant philosophers (e.g. Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Spinoza etc.). What I liked the most about this book is that he also gave brief accounts of some of the most memorable discussions he has facilitated and some of the most interesting questions he has heard.

I think it would b
Sep 12, 2010 Trisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phillips changed his life and began living as he desired, 'bringing philosophy back to the people' by organizing Socratic discussion groups who informally meet and converse on a particular question by questioning the question, the assumptions, concepts, points of view, logic, etc. He works with schools of all levels, prisons, retirement communities, random groups in coffee houses and libraries, and so on. The questions discussed in any individual meeting is the result of member suggestions and d ...more
Ian Cooper
From the moment I saw this book and my inner voice whispered what the @#$% is this, I had begun my own expedition into the socratic method. Because this book was a gift i wasn't really itching to read it so I started then stopped, But then as I reached places in myself that had never been question I had fully realized how powerful this book is. It follows the journey of a man cursed to question things from the most miniscule events to the more cliche conundrums we have all had contact with at yo ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Kyle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Phillips describes his attempts to bring philosophy to mainstream America in "Socrates Café". He succeeds in bringing philosophy to the masses, but not in any postitive way. His discussions are vehicles of quasi-existential vanity. They lack rigor--someone simply asks a philosophical-sounding question, and the participants simply bounce back and forth superficial thoughts which may or may not be related to the original question.
Perhaps the best thing we can learn from "Socrates Café"
Feb 09, 2010 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. The author was kind of pretentious and each chapter had it's respective 'I walked into the room and BLEW THEIR MINDS with my intellect' moments, and I'm assuming the dialogue was all from memory, as each seemed to have a very similar vibe and pattern to it. I'm sure each conversation was tweaked and improved a bit as per Phillips to make for better presentation. But regardless, I enjoyed it and found the dialogues interesting. It's definitely great for the amateur philosopher, ...more
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
I wasn't entirely thrilled with this book, maybe because of the constant theme of astonishment at the ability of ordinary people to provide interesting answers to philosophical questions, which felt awfully cynical and condescending to me. Otherwise, though, this book champions an interesting concept, the development of philosophy clubs as a popular pastime. Getting people together to talk about stuff could certainly be a fantastic way to help improve communities, and the 'Socratic' question mod ...more
Dana Specht
Dec 20, 2011 Dana Specht rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun and light introduction into how attainable leading a thoughtful and Socratically-influenced life is. It certainly leads to more awareness, but unless you seek out philosophical outlets, it is easy to fall back into an unexamined life.

Approaching book club discussions with more questions and imagination will be my first step towards applying this in my life. I also recently started a five year journal that asks a new question everyday. It has been humbly reminding me that the simplest ques
Jan 27, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was definitely Philosophy-lite. The back cover calls it a "Philosophy for Dummies" type of book, but I would say it is more of an overview and a glimpse into Phillips person world view. I will say it has inspired me to look at some of the writings that he mentions through out the book. Philosophy is not a subject I have been drawn to in the past; I had not really understood what the Socratic Method encompassed. Now I am intrigued.
Oct 22, 2007 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mid-life crisis types
This book was refreshing to read. It made me want to have some philosophical discussions. I found that reading this book helped to clear away some of the fog that usually rests comfortably in my mind, and keeps me from seeing or considering others.
Now that I'm finished reading it, I'm not sure what to do. I hope that it will stand the test of time - in that I will want to pull it off the shelf and read it, or any portion of it, again. If it does, then it will get 5 stars instead of 4.
Oct 01, 2007 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good summation of Socrates' philosophy, as well as some select others. It got me back into a student frame of mind, and refreshed my memory. Some of the discussions were deep and probing, but others were less poignant, and the writing was not all that good. He used about twelve adjectives to describe every single person who offered anything to the discussions. It got very redundant after a while.
James Lundy
Mar 28, 2008 James Lundy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who think philosophy begins and ends with Plato
I read this book after already having participated for some time in the local Socrates Cafe. I enjoyed and was interested in the parts about forming and organizing Socrates Cafes around the country but I was bored to tears with the philosophical discussion chapters, which are "classical" philosophy topics that just don't do it for me. You are better off skipping this book and finding a meeting in your area.
Feb 22, 2014 Danesh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was tough to like at first. The beginning seems filled with so much dead text that looks to just fill the pages. The good parts are really the quotes. This book is filled with them, all prime for a facebook status. There is a part in the book where the narration goes against itself. Other than that, it's a bit boring, but I actually would recommend it to a student taking philosophy classes since he does touch on all the key words and ideas used in those classes.
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I'm an author, scholar and pro-democracy activist. My principal projects are Socrates Cafe (see and Constitution Cafe (see, and my personal website is at
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“I would replace the quality of sincerity with honesty, since one can hold a conviction sincerely without examining it, while honesty would require that one subject one's convictions to frequent scrutiny.” 0 likes
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