Sasha Toten • Bi-College News • February, 2008

Philosophy might sound like a daunting subject to discuss, especially if you have never taken a course related to it. But what if you were discussing it without books, in a café, on a weekday night, amongst people from all different age groups and backgrounds?

This is what has been happening at the Milkboy in Bryn Mawr town every third Monday of the month, from 7-8:30 p.m.

Initiated by Todd Marrone and Ron Foligno after they read the book, “Socrates Café”, these monthly discussions have been tackling philosophical topics monthly since this past summer.

“We thought of it after reading the book, which is about a Philosophy professor who quit his job and traveled around the country to do philosophy discussions and thought it would be a good idea” said Foligno.

Once they agreed to start their own Socrates Café, Marrone approached the directors of the Milkboy recording studio to see if they could use the café as their venue.

“We thought that a coffee shop seemed logical, and that [Milkboy] would be perfect because it’s more intimate,” said Marrone.

With the environment posed for in-depth discussion about whatever that month’s subject is on, Marrone added that “the conversations aren’t about philosophy, they are philosophy.”

It is not a prerequisite to know anything about philosophy or philosophers before joining in, and since the topics are chosen at the site, there is no way to prepare. Instead, people draw upon their own life experiences.

“Some people bring their book knowledge and quote philosophy, which is great, but not everyone does,” said Foligno.

Each session begins with everyone who is present submitting an anonymous question, and then the group decides which question to discuss that night. Topics have ranged from “What is important?” to “Have we reached equality?” to “Is it possible to change somebody’s mind?”

“One of the reasons I go is because some of the best times I’ve had at Bryn Mawr have been when you stay up late and have long philosophical conversations that move through various subjects,” said Michelle Corder BMC ‘08. “The only problem is, that these conversations only really happen freshman year because the older you get the less time you spend in your hall talking to your friends late at night.”

So far, most of the participants have not been college-age students. Instead the group is a seemingly random collection of people who have had different levels of education and life experiences.

“It’s a good intellectual exercise, good company, and a nice way to escape from academic work to discuss global issues,” said Corder. “It’s also very diverse, not just the opinions of college women, and it’s really interesting to see what other people have to say about these issues.”

The book that inspired these discussions is a call to action in itself, encouraging people to start their own chapters of Socrates Café.

“The book includes steps on how to moderate discussions, it says that it’s good to rotate moderators, define the terminology in the question, look into built-in assumptions, — and tells you to turn the question around and look at it from the opposite point of view,” explained Marrone.

“We like to talk, debate, and are interested in philosophy,” said Foligno. “It’s also a great reason to get out of a house. At the end of our sessions I feel as though we’ve done something productive by discussing [these issues] instead of spending two hours watching the news and being told what to think.”

For more information about the book, visit

2 Responses to “Socrates Café”
  1. bevan says:

    i was not there so can not do a poem. but i will say this….i have been a philly sports fan since i was seven. when i thought of rivalry i too of course thought of sports immediately. one thing i would change is my attitude towards popular athletics because i have taken it too seriously and since late 1983 it has not been a healthy overall experience. however i will be at game one today where we destroy the brewers.

  2. Carl Ingalls says:


    Please count me in. I won’t be able to attend many sessions, but I will surely enjoy every one I manage to get to.

    Thanks for the invite,