Weaving together philosophy, social science and neuroscience research, personal anecdotes and dialogues, A Child at Heart: Unlocking Our Creativity, Curiosity and Reason at Every Age and Stage of Life, takes a radically different approach to the traditional boundaries between childhood and adulthood to reveal how rather than lapse into adulthood, we can achieve what the Greeks call arête—all-around excellence—when we look to children and youth as a lodestar for our development.

Childhood is our primary launching pad, a time of life when learning is more intense than at any other, when we gain the critical knowledge and skills that can help ensure that we remain adaptable. This book weaves together the thinking of philosophers from across the ages who make the unsettling assertion that with the passage of time we are apt to shrink mentally, emotionally, and cognitively. If we follow what has become an all-too-common course, we denature our original nature—which brims with curiosity, empathy, reason, wonder, and a will to experiment and understand—and we regress, our sense of who we are will become fuzzier and everyone in our orbit will pay a price.

Mounting evidence shows that we begin our lives with a moral, intellectual, and creative bang, and in this groundbreaking, heavily researched and highly engaging volume, Christopher Phillips makes the provocative case that childhood isn’t merely a state of becoming, while adulthood is one of being, as if we’ve “arrived” and reached the summit. His life-changing proposition is that if we embrace the defining qualities of youth, we’re not destined to become frail, dispirited, or unhinged, we’ll grow in a way defined by wonder, curiosity, imaginativeness, playfulness, and compassion—in essence, unlimited potential.

(W.W. Norton & Company 2011)

A central feature of modern political life in the United States is public veneration of the Constitution. The Constitution forms the basis of our understanding of the rights of citizens, it is the last argument of politicians across the political spectrum, and it has the moral gravity of secular scripture. This modern reverence makes Thomas Jefferson’s opinion of the Constitution all the more shocking: Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, believed that Americans should get together every twenty years and rewrite the Constitution to meet their current needs. Essentially, every generation of Americans would rip up the Constitution and start again. In CONSTITUTION CAFÉ: Jefferson’s Brew for a True Revolution, bestselling author and scholar Christopher Phillips puts Jefferson’s radical idea to the test and asks Americans from all walks of life to create a new Constitution.


(W.W. Norton & Company 2011)

Taking as his springboard for modern Socratic inquiry the five traditional forms of love as practiced by the Greeks of antiquity–eros (erotic love), storge (family love), philia(friendship love), xenia (stranger love), and agape (unconditional love)–Phillips sets out to explore, in a wide variety of venues around the world, with people of all walks of life, how we can become a more loving world today, and how we can and even must learn about the wise, loving ways of the Greeks of old–particularly those of Socrates, who embodied all aspects of Greek love at a time when his own beloved society was in deep decline, seeking to resuscitate those loving practices that might once again set his society on an evolving course.

(W.W. Norton & Company 2011)

In his successful follow up, Christopher Phillips poses “original” questions of Socrates–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.”
Phillips continues this work, venturing to foreign lands and engaging in spirited and provocative discussions with people from many backgrounds: Japanese fifth-graders, Somalian refugees, a Mexican museum worker, an Israeli university student, Korean Buddhists… The responses uncover surprising commonalities between cultures and reveal the deep connections between classical philosophy, modern life and the rich traditions and experiences of people far removed from the “canon” of Western academic philosophy.

(W.W. Norton & Company 2001)

In his bestseller Socrates Café, Phillips describes his extensive travels across the U.S. starting philosophical discussion groups and recalls what led him to start his itinerant program to begin with. Recounting some of the most invigorating sessions, he reveals sometimes surprising, often profound reflections on the meaning of love, friendship, work, growing old, and others among Life’s Big Questions.

(Originally published by TenSpeed/Tricycle and Penguin Random House).
Available in English and Spanish.

What is silence? What is wisdom? How do you know you’re here? Socratic dialogue—for kids? At least the answer to this last question is an easy, resounding Yes! The rest you’ll have to think about and discuss with your friends, which is just what philosopher Christopher Phillips is hoping for. He has long been leading thinkers of all ages on a thoughtful and thought-filled quest for knowledge, and this picture book models for young children that mulling over some of life’s big questions can be done anytime, anywhere.

(Originally published by TenSpeed/Tricyle and Penguin Random House).
Available in English and Spanish.

Christopher Phillips–known for promoting the art of Socratic inquiry to adults and older children around the world–now turns his attention to the very young. Ceci Ann approaches her day with an open and questioning mind. Why? Why not! This winsome model for thoughtful conversations will encourage young readers toward critical thinking in the years ahead.