Bestselling Author │ Founder, Constitution & Socrates Cafés │ Social Entrepreneur
“To date, Phillips has orchestrated discussions on … Solomonic topics at nursing homes, maximum-security prisons, churches, homeless shelters, bookstores and coffeehouses across the country, gently prodding students, urban professionals, unreconstructed slackers, street people and others to share their worldviews and scrutinize their most basic assumptions.”–Los Angeles Times
Christopher Phillips has a passion for inquiry. A foremost specialist in the Socratic Method, he reminds us that we ought to ask questions – “not about any chance question,” as Socrates put it in Plato’s Republic, “but about the way one should live.”
Phillips believes that the process of dialogue and the space of human interaction are good
for us as individuals and essential for us as a society. At a time when there are widening rifts between Americans, and when American culture is frequently perceived as exclusionary and self-involved, Phillips encourages us to approach others with greater openness and less fear. His goal is to inspire curiosity and wonder, to nurture self-discovery and democracy.
To this end, Phillips is the founder of the Constitution Café and Socrates Café dialogue groups. These groups aren’t just about good conversation, however. “It’s grass-roots democracy,” Phillips told Time magazine. “It’s only in a group setting that people can hash out their ideas about how we should act not just as an individual but as a society.”
“Phillips induces his listeners to examine their assumptions rationally, in hopes they will see the way to improving the meaningfulness of their lives. These dialogues are intriguing, interesting, and often unexpected, as Phillips modestly considers himself a fellow inquirer, rather than a didactic instructor.”
In his first bestseller, Socrates Café
(2001), Phillips travels across America, launching philosophical discussion groups designed to stimulate inquiry and debate. In Six Questions of Socrates
(2004) and Socrates in Love
(2007), he expands the scope of his explorations, engaging in spirited and provocative discussions with Japanese fifth-graders, Somali refugees, a Mexican museum worker, an Israeli university student, and Korean Buddhists, among others. These conversations reveal surprising points of intersection between classical philosophy, modern life, and the intellectual richness of societies far removed from Western philosophical tradition.
To date, Phillips has helped create more than 500 ongoing discussion groups around the world. In the words of Time
magazine, “Socrates Cafés have found a surprisingly large and diverse following.” The subjects under discussion are Life’s Big Questions: love and friendship, work and fulfillment, justice and religion, death and aging.
Phillips’s newest project, Constitution Café, is a space dedicated to the Jeffersonian idea of freedom: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In these groups, a broad cross-section of actual and aspiring Americans grapple with how they would sculpt the United States Constitution if they could start from scratch. In his book of the same name, Constitution Café
(2011), Phillips describes what led him to hit the road once again and launch an initiative aimed at generating a new, nationwide Constitutional Convention. Energized by the initial optimism surrounding Obama’s presidency and the fierce partisanship infecting Congress, Phillips wants Americans to understand and challenge our most fundamental freedoms—with a little help from Thomas Jefferson.
“If challenging received wisdom can be a precarious occupation, Phillips believes it’s as necessary now as it ever was,” says the Los Angeles Times
. “America, he thinks, is politically and spiritually adrift, a condition not unlike that facing Greece in the time of Socrates.”
Dr. Phillips is also the founder and executive director of the Democracy
Café and the Society for Philosophical Inquiry (SPI). Dr. Phillips
frequently lectures on such topics as “Leading Change,” “Deliberative
Traditions and Democracy,” and “Socratic Inquiry” for audience of all
ages, bringing them into an engaged dialogue about our society.
"I have received such wonderful feedback from the school districts who sent the kids to your event. The kids apparently told their teachers that it was their best, most stimulating field trip ever! Indeed one remarked to me at the event--and I found this especially touching—'He treated us like adults. He really wanted to know what we were thinking.' I was simply so touched and just astonished by what you did before the audience. It was that rare thing—inspiring in the best way!” —Sheila Black, Executive Director, Gemini Ink, San Antonio, TX, and Coordinator of Speakers Series on Breakthrough Thinkers
Dr. Phillips—who earned his PhD in Communications, and who has Master’s degrees in the humanities, the natural sciences, and in education—is a professor, writer and pro-democracy activist. Dr. Phillips is the 2012 recipient of the Distinguished American Leadership Award and is a Senior Fellow in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches courses on such subjects as 'Socratic Method and Democratic Citizenship' and 'Money and Democracy.' He and his family divide their time between Mexico, Virginia, and Philadelphia. He is currently working on two new books. Selected Writings
MediaNational Public Radio's Weekend Edition interview: Christopher Phillips on Constitution Cafe'National Public Radio's Weekend Edition interview: Christopher Phillips on Socrates Cafe'National Public Radio's All Things Considered: Christopher Phillips
- Constitution Café (W.W. Norton, 2011)
- Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Passionate Heart (W.W. Norton, 2007)
- Six Questions of Socrates (W.W. Norton, 2004)
- Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy (W.W. Norton, 2001)
For more information about Christopher Phillips, please go to www.christopherphillips.com