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Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,200 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Christopher Phillips is a man on a mission: to revive the love of questions that Socrates inspired long ago in ancient Athens. "Like a Johnny Appleseed with a master's degree, Phillips has gallivanted back and forth across America, to cafés and coffee shops, senior centers, assisted-living complexes, prisons, libraries, day-care centers, elementary and high schools, and ch ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2001)
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Christopher Porzenheim
I understood this book as a manifesto; one I was sympathetic to but ultimately unconvinced by.

In Socrates Cafe, Phillips is calling for the creation of small Socratic communities in which a version of the Socratic Method can be practiced. He shares stories from Socrates Cafe's he has facilitated and gives a taste to the reader of what participation at a Socrates Cafe asks of you (and promises for you.) In general, the guiding principle of behavior in Socrates Cafes is 'what would Socrates do?'

John Martindale
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
robin friedman
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.

"Socrates 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, priso
Kate Woods Walker
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
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 16, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Oct 01, 2008 added it
Shelves: partly-read
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. ...more
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a mixture of two intertwined threads: a personal memoir and a meditation on the virtues of philosophy, particularly the socratic method. It deftly moved back and forth between the two, one moment describing the pivotal moment when the author decided to give up a cushy academic job to pursue his goal of leading informal discussion groups across the US (the aforementioned Socrates cafe) and the next providing a history of some particular aspect of philosophy (for example, whether wha ...more
Jul 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2010
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. ...more
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Aug 30, 2014 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 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 09, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jun 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Robinson
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the second Philosophy book that I've read in the past two weeks that I have really enjoyed. Very accessible content for even the layman. Phillips describes the Socratic Method and how to set up philosophy discussion groups, which he has in many locales. I attended my first meeting last night in Atlanta on some of the tenets discussed in the book and I was intellectually challenged and enjoyed it. ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am now fascinated by the concept of these Socrates "cafes" and will be in search to hopefully attend one in my area. I love that this book was written in a conversational way that makes for easy reading, yet was still done in a meaningful and thought-provoking way. And, that same element of accessibility to the ideas, and most importantly, the Socratic questions, is really the point of this book and the cafes it highlights.

As the book's author (and also in reference to Walter Kaufmann) provide
Kekoa Riggin
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I truly enjoyed this book. It was an easy read that could be completed in a few days. I think the value of this book is that there seems to be a little something for everyone.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the idea of "friend," and I'm sure most would enjoy several of the topics discussed in the book.

The book comprises the narration of Christopher Phillips's experience with establishing the Socrates Cafe: a meetup for philosophers of all types, held in local venues. Phillips tells the st
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I love the idea of this book and this approach to thinking and learning.

I guess the problem is, to carry the idea of a book to fruition, Phillips had to tell lots of anecdotes, which all started to sound alike, usually with him either a) bringing the discussion to a close with an incredibly insightful comment, or b) inspiring an unlikely person (such as a child, an octogenarian, or someone who was hanging back in the periphery, but who spoke up and might as well have dropped the mic), to contrib
Mary Brown
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to think clearly, teachers, parents
I read this book many years ago and decided to read it again. I really enjoyed the down-to-earth explanations of the author's attempts to make the Socratic dialogue "real" in people's everyday lives. My exposure to philosophy had all been academic, and I was happy to see the practical applications and the "everyday philosophers'" involvement with the questions posed.
What I realized is that I think all my years of teaching literature have touched more on the philosophical than the literary aspect
Zak Boston
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Phillips, in a wonderfully and intentionally accessible way, reinvigorates philosophic investigations of the people, by the people, and for the people with an inspiring menagerie of groups and locations. For the philosophically minded it sparks hope that the destitution of contemporary discourse is just a convenient film over a mutual integrity for curiosity and wisdom of all people.
C.L. Phillips
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
For a long time, part of my philosophy has been to question everything, to challenge people in their beliefs, to think things through all the way to the end, and to encourage others to do the same. This book was a couple hundred pages of that.

A quick read (I did it in a day) with some interesting dialogue about thinking deeply and questioning well.
Alexander Gagliano
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
The topic covered in this book is an intriguing one - the diffusion of socratic questioning within the general public. Discussions like the author's Socrates Cafes are no doubt sorely needed, and the insights from this book are interesting and useful; however, the author came off as a bit pompous and repeated the same points several times, which made it slow to get through. ...more
David Arnold
Nothing special

While I have no doubt Mr. Phillips is intelligent and well versed in his subject, his writing could use a little work. Too much time is spent describing his audience and what they are wearing. He even goes into great detail about a chair he is sitting in. Not what I was looking for in this book.
Celesta Tiner Bainbridge
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dewey Decimal update-100 PHILLIPS
Reading this book found me with a dictionary on hand... gadfly, loquacious, aphorism and nonagenarian, just a few that baffled me.
I enjoyed this book. Phillips gives a person permission to ask questions. One question was: what is the meaning of life? Someone said, a better question is What brings meaning to my life?
I recommend this for CURIOUS people.
AmyK Hutchens
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Filled with post it notes from my first read in 2001, I immersed myself back into the philosophical world of asking better questions. From gaining a better understanding of ourselves to staying curious about the world and others, Phillips delivers the perfect conversation starters. In this time of sheltering in place, I encourage you to ask and answer his question, “What is home?”
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author talks about Philosophy, philosophers and starting discussion groups in various places where people come and have philosophical discussions. If you like philosophy, this book would probably be of some interest to you.
Beth Casey
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This is one of the best philosophy books I have read in a long time - focusing on the Socratic method and the significance of asking questions. I am reminded of why I majored in philosophy and the joy of "why?". ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book even more the second time. The author has helped me refresh my understanding of the importance of sincere and courageous questions. He references many classic works in context for further reading. This book should be on everyone's list! ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
The cafe is such a great idea. I wish the author could have allowed the book to be more about the cafe than himself. The "I did this" and then "I did this other brilliant thing" got repetitive and detracted from what should have been the real point of the book - the cafe and the people who attend. ...more
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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 ...more

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