Brooke Hoffman • The Philadelphia Examiner • June, 2010

Wanted: Willy Wonka is looking for his Charlie to lead philosophy/discussion group in coffee house setting once a month. Required skills include a love of art, new ideas, and an appreciation for stimulating conversation.

Local artist, Todd Marrone has been organizing Socrates Cafe for about three years and is currently looking for a partner in crime to help lead discussions and meetings. The concept of this discussion series stems from the book of the same name by Christopher Phillips who was a professor of philosophy. Phillips had become disgruntled about the state of how philosophy was being taught; he felt academic students were trained to regurgitate old ideas instead of developing new concepts of thought. He decided to travel across the country holding “Socrates Cafes” where people could come together and hold discussions. He went everywhere including bingo halls and prisons. The conversation’s jumping point would be an abstract question and everyone in attendance was welcomed comment.

Marrone continues this tradition on third Monday of every month at MilkBoy Acoustic in Bryn Mawr. He creates an informal environment that makes people of all mindsets and ages feel welcome. While some people do have an academic based philosophy background, the group is more focused on freethinking and non-traditional concepts of philosophy. The group can range from just 2 to 3 people or be as large as 25. Marrone starts the group out by directing them to write an abstract question on an index card and then the group democratically votes on what question to discuss. He feels by coming up with a concept on site it will allow for more “organic” thoughts. Marrone, who is also a middle school art teacher, has a way of getting everyone to have a say in the discussion. He calmly deters people who monopolize the conversation and helps break down the question when the crowd starts out on the quiet side. People are also welcome to just come and absorb .

The goal is for attendees to be stimulated by the conversation. Marrone says it may be “daunting after a day of work but participating wakes you up.” Ideas can make a person feel alive and allows them to be more immersed in things, whether it is life or art. Marrone says, “There’s enough room for everyone to participate.”

Join the discussion on Monday, June 17 at 7 p.m. at MilkBoy in Bryn Mawr.
If you are interested in becoming a group leader you can contact Todd Marrone.

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