Book Review: Socrates in Love by Christopher Phillips

There are two types of philosophy books.  There are the serious types that you typically read in philosophy classes and that professional philosophers read.  They present problems in philosophy and are asked to be taken seriously.  Then there are the fun types.  Good examples of these books are Family Guy and Philosophy, South Park and Philosophy, Simpsons and Philosophy, and Plato and the Platypus, and so on.

Socrates in Love falls somewhere in the middle.  Phillips has started a concept called Socrates’ Cafes.  What are Socrates’ Cafes you ask?  It’s where you get a group of people (where most of them haven’t studied philosophy professionally) and then you ask simple questions.  “Why are we here?”  “What do you consider friendship?”  “What is the good life?”

In this book, the author goes to different places asking questions that pertains to love.  He goes to Las Vegas and asks “What is passion?”  He goes to Iraq and asks soldiers “What do you consider your duty?”  He goes to New Orleans and asks “What is a community?” after Hurricane Katrina hit.  He goes to a maximum security prison and asks “what is unconditional love?”  He goes to an evangenlical conference and asks “what is humanitarian love?”

The book talks about what these average people have said, then the author sprinkles in some anecdotes about what historical philosophers have said, as if it as apropos to what the average people have said.  For example, someone says that passion is doing what you love doing best, and gaining pleasure from it.  To which the author switches to saying something like, “ahh, well that reminds me of what Socrates said,  he said. . .”  At first, it can get irksome, but you get used to it.

Some of these answers were interesting, but I wouldn’t take it seriously.  It seems that the author only puts in positive aspects of his Socrates’ Cafes experiences.  I wonder if any of them have failed.  At the same time, it seems that he doesn’t go further with the Socratic method.  He takes in a simple answer and leaves it at that, whereas Socrates would’ve really pursued further in the hopes to the truth.  Most of the answers that the people gave, I found, were too simple and didn’t have a lot of philosophical underpinnings.  But then again, these people don’t have any philosophical training.

Someone who has little philosophical training might like this, perhaps may even be inspired with this, but like I said, this isn’t serious philosophy.  Others might read this as a self-help book, which I wouldn’t consider at all.  I didn’t really see this as “inspriational,” but more about “here’s what people have to say about love.”

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Book Review, Culture, Education, Plato, Sexuality, Socrates, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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