Plans being made for local Socrates Café

Published 11:16am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A philosophy discussion club is coming back to Brookhaven and plans to hold a meeting in the near future, said club facilitator and organizer Eric Kaplan.

“I’m beginning to find out how much interest is out there in the community for something of this nature,” Kaplan said. “I’m hopeful that we bring as many persons as possible into the club.”

The club will be Brookhaven’s version of the “Socrates café,” an open invitation group of people interested in getting together and exchanging thoughtful ideas and experience.

The club’s name stems from the Socratic method of asking questions in the quest to get to the fundamental truth of a matter, or a more enlightened idea of it. The method encourages participants to seek a better understanding of concepts through thoughtful dialogue, rather than mere memorization. Socrates, whose method of teaching and inquiry is one that is used throughout Western civilization, was a Greek philosopher.

At the beginning of the meetings, group members will write down various thought provoking questions, or themes, to be discussed, Kaplan said. Out of the questions – or themes – presented, the group will vote to choose one for discussion.

Themes can be classic, timeless philosophical questions, or they can focus on current events in the news. Some interesting topics of discussion in the past have revolved around the nature of evil, where the concept of justice comes from and what happens after death, according to Kaplan.

There are no limitations on members regarding religious orientation, economic status and/or educational level, he explained. “There really are no requirements except for a desire to learn more and to explore ideas and philosophy. The only thing required is an open mind,” Kaplan said.”

There is no required reading either, or prerequisites for meetings. Despite a lack of pre-meeting readings or study, the group encourages certain formalities. Among these include:

• Respect your fellow thinkers.

• Attack the opinions, not the people.

• Consensus is not expected and agreement is not necessary.

• Look for the “good question.”

Perhaps the most important guideline of all at the meetings is the ability to listen, according to the Socrates Cafe website. “You cannot have a good argument without listening to the other side. We don’t ask you to agree, we don’t even ask you to accept their ideas, but we do ask that you listen to them.”

Ideally, Kaplan would prefer to see great diversity at the meetings.

“The wider the range of experience of the group, the better the meetings tend to go.”

To allow equal time for everyone present, there will be a time limit of two to three minutes to speak. Often, Kaplan said, meetings continue into the night at nearby restaurants or coffee shops.

The club, which will meet in the Lincoln County public library next Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m., will be the second of its kind in Brookhaven.

Participation and interest in the first Socrates cafe diminished in recent years due in large part to the health of its principal club organizer.

Determined to step into the role of club facilitator, as well as appeal to the requests of interested community members, Kaplan decided to re-introduce the club to Brookhaven.

“There have been a couple things in particular that has brought the club to my attention. Some former members have passed away, both here in Brookhaven and in Biloxi, where I used to attend meetings. I was also contacted by former members who were curious about whether the club still existed.”

At its base, the central idea of the club “is to bring philosophy to the everyday individual,” noted Socrates Club founder Christopher Phillips.

There are more than 600 “cafes” worldwide according to the Socrates Cafe website. For more information about the Socrates Cafe in Brookhaven, Kaplan encourages those interested to contact him at 601-757-6977.