How people around the world grapple with the great questions posed by Socrates.
In his first book, Socrates Cafe, Phillips charmingly recounted how he roamed the country starting philosophical discussion groups inspired by the Socratic method of questioning. Here, Phillips ventures to many lands, including Greece, Japan, South Korea and Mexico, and stages dialogues with people from many backgrounds: Navajo, Confucian, Islamic, Jewish, Catholic. He discusses six questions, each in a separate chapter: What is virtue? What is moderation? What is justice? What is good? What is courage? What is piety? His hope is to "discover an array of timely answers" that may help us achieve "human excellence." The author's own ruminations, and an eclectic selection of published ideas from Tom Sawyer to Thich Nhat Hanh, supplement the 20 or so dialogues. In a final chapter, Phillips argues that the Socratic "pursuit of the virtuous life" may provide a way of countering the "downward [moral] spiral" he sees prevailing in today's world. Phillips's idealism remains refreshing, and the book is valuable for its inclusion of non-European points of view. But as in Socrates Caf , the philosophy often feels superficial. For example, a discussion in Mexico of "What is justice?" turns into a catalogue of government injustices with nothing more to say philosophically than, "We have to make sure that justice serves all of us in an impartial way." Such insights are obviously not without value, especially for those new to philosophizing, but they make this very much a book for beginners. Author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.