Synopses & Reviews
How people around the world grapple with the great questions posed by Socrates.
What is virtue? What is moderation? What is justice? What is courage? What is good? What is piety? Socrates thought that understanding the perspectives of others on these six great questions would help him become a more excellent human being.
Following in Socrates's footsteps, Christopher Phillips investigates these same questions, beginning in the marketplace of modern-day Athens. He goes on to investigate the timely responses and outlooks of people from different cultures and backgrounds around the world: from Greece and Spain to Japan and Korea, Mexico City, and Chiapas, where the region's indigenous people struggle for fundamental human rights. Phillips also traveled throughout the United States, holding dialogues in diverse communities from New York City to the Navajo Nation.
Introducing us to less familiar thinkers in non-Western traditions who were kindred spirits of Socrates, Phillips enlarges our perspectives on life's fundamental questions, creating an innovative world survey of philosophy.
"[H]ighly accessible....[M]ost readers will applaud Phillips for once again making philosophy a living enterprise beyond the lecture hall and the faculty lounge." Bryce Christensen, Booklist
"Phillips's idealism remains refreshing, and the book is valuable for its inclusion of non-European points of view....[His] insights are obviously not without value, especially for those new to philosophizing, but they make this very much a book for beginners." Publishers Weekly
"There are a few surprises...but primarily, there is a lot of pondering and referencing. Proudly faithful to Socrates, whose mission was, per a quote from Greek writer Gregory Vlastos, 'forcing himself on [those] who have neither taste nor talent for philosophy.'" Kirkus Reviews
"Educated readers will want to discuss the ideas in this book, which is precisely the author's intent. Those new to philosophical thinking will find it an admirable introduction." Library Journal
Following in Socrates's footsteps, Phillips investigates timeless questions, beginning in the marketplace of modern-day Athens. He goes on to investigate the timely responses and outlooks of people from different cultures and backgrounds around the world, creating an innovative world survey of philosophy.
In Six Questions of Socrates
, Christopher Phillips poses Socrates's "original" questions as recorded by Plato in the most diverse cultural circumstances. This unconventional method of discussion brings out surprising commonalities he begins with "What is virtue?" in the remains of an ancient marketplace in Athens and moves on to a Navajo reservation in the Southwest, where it turns out that the Navajo conception of virtue, hozho
, includes a sense of order and harmony with the natural world both similar to and distinct from the conception of the ancient Greeks. In Detroit, Phillips discusses "What is moderation?" with a group of twenty Muslim women, some veiled, some not, who explain to him the Koranic notion of a "just mean" or "balance between extremes."
Along Phillips's journey, one learns both about Western philosophers from the ancient Greeks to Nietzsche and about the philosophical traditions of Native American tribes, Asian cultures, and the Islamic world. Phillips shows how "big questions" are inseparable from timely political issues, as when in Mexico his companions consider the question of "What is justice?" and discuss the endemic corruption of the Mexican police force and political system; just as the question of "What is piety?" has particularly intense meaning for a group of Catholics reeling from the priest sex-abuse scandals.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 310-312) and index.
About the Author
Christopher Phillips is the founder and director of the nonprofit Society for Philosophical Inquiry, and the author of Socrates Café. He lives in Virginia and in Mexico.
Table of Contents
What Is Virtue? 9
What Is Moderation? 57
What Is Justice? 99
What Is Good? 161
What Is Courage? 205
What Is Piety? 241
Is Excellence Still Possible? 285
Further Reading 309