What is a Socrates’ Cafe and why is it so fun?

October 20, 2022

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By oksmith - uploaded on February 26, 2018, 4:37 am

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I have been going to the same summer camp since I was 7 years old.  At this camp, we practice philosophy and discussion just about every day.  These discussions are lovingly called “Socrates’ Cafe” and are enjoyed by all ages of campers and staff alike.  The questions vary in degrees of seriousness, ranging from “is a hotdog a sandwich?” to the classic trolley problem, or even to “what is beauty?”  Although I find deep discussions to be very important, I do love the silly ones.  A favorite topic of mine has been “is the ocean a soup?,” which led to intense discussion and debate culminating in the most memorable quote I’ve heard, “what is soup but broth with chunky bits?”  As you can tell, these Socertes’ Cafes are some of the most intense and possibly most fun conversations one could have.

All the humor in these topics hides a deeper meaning, too.  These discussions are somewhat of a casual, unprepared Socratic seminar, which often leads to a deep dive into the presented topic.  The trolley problem, usually a hypothetical choice between saving yourself or saving something you love, is a favorite amongst staff and campers, as it provides a light screen of sorts by disguising it as a simple problem to cover up the darker aspect of life and death choice.  This also provides an opportunity to add more factors into the equation, allowing for an even more engaged conversation.  The heavier topics, like the view of gender norms in today’s society, allow for open communication amongst a variety of perspectives that provide insight into the troubles of others and help to build empathy and healthy discussion habits.  Upbeat and fun topics tend to lead to a very heated debate, which helps practice self-control, patience, organization, and team building.  Although they may get a little chaotic, learning to wait your turn and getting to your point in a concise manner are skills that are important to learn for everyday life. 

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