Socrates Café

Socrates CaféJoin us for our long-running philosophical discussion group, Socrates Café!

What is it?

Socrates Café is an opportunity for ordinary people to wrestle with the Big Questions, such as “What is truth? What gives life meaning? Who are we?” in a facilitated, volunteer-led discussion.

Based on the work of Christopher Phillips, author of Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, Socrates Café seeks to revive the pleasures of examining our most deeply held beliefs in an atmosphere of free thinking and energetic exchange.

At each meeting, participants select a question for discussion by democratic process, which is then examined over the next hour and fifteen minutes for built-in assumptions, embedded concepts and logical consistencies (or inconsistencies).

Alternative viewpoints are encouraged and explored.  All discussion takes place in an atmosphere of respect and encouragement.

When is it?

Socrates Café is held at  on the fourth Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m.  at the Main Library.

Our meeting date may vary on occasion due to holidays, so please check our website calendar for updates.

Who is invited to attend?

You are! People of all ages, from all walks of life, are enthusiastically encouraged to attend and contribute their unique perspective. Newcomers are always welcome.

What are the rules?

Be respectful. Socrates Café is a collaborative exploration of ideas and concepts, not a debating society.

Be open to what others have to say, even when you disagree.

Personal putdowns are taboo(!) and the facilitator will call you on it.

In order for Socrates Café to be successful, participants must feel safe to express their thoughts.

Listen carefully… listen to what each speaker is saying, fully and  thoughtfully.  Don’t plan your own response until he or she is finished speaking, then ask questions or offer your comments.

Share the floor.  Assist the facilitator by allowing time for other participants to speak.

Don’t expect consensus or firm conclusions. A successful Socrates Café closes with more questions than answers.  The goal is to learn to think more deeply and critically, not to come to conclusions.

Who facilitates Socrates Café?

You can! Anyone is welcome to facilitate Socrates Café.  However, facilitating is a position of responsibility and trust, and there are some important dos and don’ts to keep in mind.  We recommend that you attend Socrates Café a time or two to get a feel for how the process works, and we also suggest that you review the guidelines that are available at the Library or online at Christopher and Cecilia Phillips’ website:  www.Philosopher.org

These guidelines are explained in depth, and model dialogues are presented in Christopher Phillips’ book, Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, which is also available at the Library.

What have we discussed at past SPPL’ Socrates Cafés?

Among the questions we have tackled are “What is free speech?”, “What is community?”, “Does God exist?”, “What is morality, and who defines it?”, “What is happiness”, “How does one distinguish between reality and illusion?”, “What is education?”, and “What is a good society?”.

Participants have been pleased to find that these topics are discussed with great civility, intelligence, and, frequently, humor.

How can I find out more?

Read Christopher Phillips’ books, which are available at South Portland Public Library!

For adults:

And, for children: