“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.”
To this end, Phillips has launched an array of timely dialogue initiatives. His Socrates Café and Constitution Café groups—the subject of four acclaimed books—have been all the rage for years and still have a marvelous momentum, while the Democracy Café and the Spirit of ’76 Café have further captured the imagination of a diverse public that craves meaningful discourse. They 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. In Constitution Café: Jefferson’s Brew for a True Revolution (2011), Phillips writes about his experiences gallivanting across the fruited plain to generate a much-needed national conversation about whether our Constitution continues to serve as a springboard for creating a more open and inclusive society.
With kindred undertakings like Revive Our Republic, the founder and executive director of DemocracyCafe.org aims to rouse a sluggish citizenry with probing questions and a number of prescriptive steps for reinvigorating our political process and inspiring Americans to immerse themselves in civic life. Another offshoot, the Declaration Project, is an ambitious online effort to collect the history of declarations, including the early documents that influenced the Declaration of Independence.
His latest book, The Philosophy of Childing: Unlocking Creativity, Curiosity, and Reason through the Wisdom of Our Youngest, explores the important role children play in the continued growth and development of their parents and other adults. Weaving together philosophy, social science and neuroscience research, and personal anecdotes and dialogues, The Philosophy of Childing charts a potentially transformative new course for development in all dimensions of our lives.
Dr. Phillips is the 2012 recipient of the Distinguished American Leadership Award. The noted educator is a Network Fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, and was named the first Senior Fellow at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Prior to that, he was a Senior Fellow in the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his family divide their time between Mexico, Virginia, and Philadelphia.
“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
For more information about Christopher Phillips, please visit www.christopherphillips.com.