PALM HARBOR — Anyone looking for a “fresh taste of philosophy abstract” might want to check out the Socrates Café.
The nationwide Socrates Café is a discussion group that delves into numerous topics. The one at the Palm Harbor Library has been around for 25 years.
Formed in the late 1980s, the group is based on a book called “Socrates Café: a Fresh Taste of Philosophy” by Christopher Phillips.
The book presents philosophy basics, explains the Socratic method, and provides guidance on how to start a Socrates Café, a gathering for philosophical discussion held at a coffeehouse, bookstore, library, or community center.
Phillips went across the country to libraries, jails, churches, elementary schools and more, asking people questions just like Socrates did.
The Socrates Café at the Palm Harbor library is hosted by James Scenna and his wife, Beverly. They run an open discussion with the idea that everyone’s opinion matters and people have the right to disagree with one another, but be civil.
The only topic that is not mentioned is current event politics, but everything else is welcomed. Although they will discuss how to govern “governance.”
People come in with questions and put them on the board, and they vote for the question of the night.
When coming up with questions, “so many people think of the same thing,” said Beverly.
James is the moderator of the café and his obligations include keeping things organized. Making sure everyone gets a turn and keeping stability. While also keeping everyone in line if someone goes off topic. His favorite part about the café is the camaraderie.
“The investigation and exchange of ideas. It’s like having a cocktail party without the alcohol, it’s a way of talking about things,” he said.
The Scennas think it’s amazing how people can take a topic that seems straightforward but come to find out how many different viewpoints there are. Call it adult camaraderie with civil talking.
One night they discussed whether there is life elsewhere in the universe and how that would affect religion.
The Scennas got involved in the café early on.
“It was either the first or second meeting and we saw a light-up sign out front that said Socrates café,” James said.
Two other people were running it at the time, and the club was sponsored by the library. In the beginning, drinks were provided during the meetings but eventually stopped due to budget issues.
The Scennas had volunteered to organize the café and have been running it ever since.
The largest group they ever had was 35. Now they generally have 10-15 people that come to the meetings.
There are no age requirements to join the café, the youngest has been 12 and the oldest 94. There are no requirements to join the café as well. A variety of different people throughout the years have participated. Anyone is welcome.
Beverly believes people like the café because of the camaraderie.
“They like the idea of having a place where they can discuss things and walk away with the fun of having a discussion. There is a rare opportunity for that right now,” said Beverly.
The meetings are the first Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the third Thursday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.