All the Right Questions

Discussion groups based on the teachings of Socrates are reviving the art of conversation

There's a buzz in the air at the El Diablo Coffee Co. in Seattle, and it's not just coming from the aroma of the shop's Cuban-style espresso drinks. On a recent Wednesday evening, as most patrons sat quietly reading books or tapping away on their laptop computers, about 15 people gathered in a circle discussing philosophy. "When is violence necessary?" asked one. "What is a well-lived life?" asked another, as the group enjoyed a well-caffeinated, intellectual high.

Known as a Socrates Cafe, the group at El Diablo is just one of 150 or so that meet in coffee shops, bookstores,...

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