SOCRATES CAFE At events, philosophy's welcome

The author will bring his unique ideas to the Valley.
NILES -- One eternal question looms large over all people: Who am I?
In his struggle to find the answer, philosopher and author Christopher Phillips is exploring a new method of philosophizing.
In the process, he's brought the discipline back to the people and out of the ivory towers of academia.
To do this, Phillips has established discussion groups across the country, which he calls Socrates Cafe.
Anyone is welcome.
"Socrates Cafe is not about knowing the traditional philosophical canon," Phillips said. "Sometimes we have a philosophical discussion and bring in a lot of past philosophical thinkers, but sometimes we don't mention them at all."
Included in book: In his book "Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy," Phillips relates his experiences touring the country and establishing Socrates Cafe.
He also weaves into the dialogues the more academic endeavors of philosophers, and the work of great thinkers through the ages.
"This gives you a chance to realize that nobody ever came up with the formal answer," he said. "We can all come up with original answers."
In his discussions, Phillips practices the Socratic Method.
This form of philosophizing, developed by Socrates in ancient Greece, employs a logical system of questions to figure out and re-examine life.
"Most academics can dupe you into thinking philosophy is narrow, that only certain questions - What is truth? What is thought? - can be discussed," he said. "But philosophy can be about everything under the sun - for example, how does a nice, kind person get stuck in a job? Then we can discuss what 'stuck' means, why people get stuck, and so on."
Best part for him: What Phillips enjoys the most about the groups are the questions, and that people of varied backgrounds are willing to ask and answer them.
"I really thrive on the diversity -- the plurality of rich and different perspectives," he said. "It opens me up to different ways of world-viewing. And it's great to see people become so involved in dialogue that they don't think about the fact that they would never normally speak to each other."
Philips will stage a Socrates Cafe at 7 p.m. Monday in Borders bookstore cafe in Niles.
He said he would be surprised if an ongoing group isn't established here.
Even if one isn't, though, "Socrates Cafe does not have to be held in a caf & eacute;," he writes in his book. "It can take place anywhere people want to do philosophy, to inquire philosophically, themselves, whether with a group of people or alone."

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