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The Experimental Philosophy of an Amatuer

Socrates Cafe is a discussion group which meets every other week, designed by Christopher Phillips to empower participants to employ the Socratic method, or essentially, ask questions. With over 600 groups meeting internationally, the egalitarian group is open to everyone and encourages diversity, as it is the gateway to discovering truth, suggests Phillips.

Thursday evening I attended Socrates Cafe at Dudley’s, a club I assumed to be designed for the curiously pretentious. Separated by about 40 years and the customary pensive look that comes with age, I, to put it bluntly, didn’t fit in.

After stumbling in late, I realized that there is a philosophy behind being late. While it is rude to be early and rush the host, being on time without a date can be equally awkward. Tardiness just requires a simple apology and avoids all uncomfortableness. I avoided having to share my “favorite ice cream flavor” with the group who would have scrutinized the psychology behind why I chose bubblegum. Crisis averted.

Each philosopher was required to voice a question, ranging anywhere from the ethics of solving Ebola to the inherency of respect (mine). After voting to narrow it down to one question (mine again), the goal of the night was to satisfactorily answer it. Even if it took all night and several strokes of the invisible gotie.

The theory behind the Socratic Method is that everyone is equal with equal opportunity— meaning that talking over someone is strictly prohibited. The roundtable-esc feel transcended people and position. The group was composed of a middle aged mother, a frazzled atheist from Berkley, an ex-convict, and an assortment of other people from widely varied pasts and worldviews. The environment was inclusive and peculiar— an assortment of what seemed to be accidentally thoughtful philosophers.

Though I haven’t yet grown Einsteinian hair to fit in, the group I tried to make fun of left an uncomfortably curious impact on me.


Abigail Stevens | The Broadside




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