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While Phillips believes the cafes can benefit anyone, one of his favorite groups is children. On a recent Thursday morning, he met with seven kids ranging in age from 6 to 16 at Children's Hospital in Oakland, Calif. Clad in multicolored hospital gowns and fuzzy slippers, the children were bashful about answering direct questions at first. But Phillips was undeterred. After making jokes about his own "uncool" haircut and lobbing out a couple of easy questions like "What's four plus three?" and "Do you like to draw?", he finally got his audience warmed up and eased them on to the heavier topic of truth, lies and secrets. "When is it not better to tell the truth?" Phillips asked his now rapt audience. "When is it good to lie?" Mariela, 10, who has severe asthma, replied, "When you're trying to help somebody escape from something like slavery."
Philosophy is important for kids of all ages, Phillips says later, because "it gives them this great chance to sculpt their moral code, to figure out clearly who they are and who they want to be ... The whole idea is not that we have to find a final answer; it's that we keep thinking about these things." One question at a time.