Announcing Marcus Aurelius Anniversary Event

Join our free virtual event on 26th April, to mark the birthday of the Stoic philosopher

You are invited to join our special symposium on the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic Roman Emperor. This virtual event, hosted by The Plato’s Academy Centrewill take place on 26th April, to commemorate his birthday. Register today, via EventBrite, and join Donald Robertson and Dr. John Sellars, as they discuss what we can learn from the Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius to improve our lives today, in the modern world.

John is an academic philosopher, currently a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London. He is also the chair of Modern Stoicism, and on the board of the Aurelius Foundation. Donald and John have both written several books about Stoicism, including recent ones on Marcus Aurelius.

John is the author of Marcus Aurelius for Routledge’s Philosophy in the Ancient World series, wrote an introduction for Farquharson’s translation of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius for Macmillan Collector’s Libraryand he is the editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Donald has written three books on Marcus Aurelius: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, a self-help book based on him; Verissimus, a graphic novel about his life; and the forthcoming biography of him for Yale University Press’ Ancient Lives series.

Last Chance to Register for Philosophy & Politics

How Can We Save Rational Discourse

This is the last chance to register for our How Can We Save Rational Discourse: Philosophy & Politics, airing live TOMORROW March 11th! All registrants are eligible to win a signed copy of Tom Morris’, The Everyday Patriot!

This event is completely free of charge, but you can donate to our nonprofit if you want to help us to continue providing similar events in the future. Not available or in a different time zone? Don’t worry as recordings of all presentations will be provided afterwards if you book your tickets now.

In today’s society, it seems like we are living in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized. This division can be seen in politics, social issues, and even personal beliefs. This growing divide is not only concerning, but it also has the potential to have disastrous consequences. The question then becomes, what can we do to save rational discourse and bring civility back into the conversation?

At How Can We Save Rational Discourse, top academics and authors will come together to discuss how we can use philosophy to bring civility and rational discourse back into the political arena. The event will explore questions such as how philosophy can help us understand the roots of political polarization, how it can be used to bridge divides, and how it can help us develop more nuanced and thoughtful approaches to policy issues. This event on March 11th provides a unique opportunity to explore how philosophy can help us to do just that.

This is the last chance to register for the event, so don’t miss out on being a part of this important conversation!

A few comments from our last event

  • “Plato Academy’s virtual events are a pleasure to watch. I learn so much, so fast!”
  • “Ancient philosophy for modern leadership is a critical event for today’s leaders to show how some challenges are persisting throughout the ages and that virtue, in contrast to profits, is timeless. I’d recommend it to every leader and manager who wants to achieve positive social impact.”

If you’re finding it challenging to handle the highly divisive and polarizing nature of politics, rest assured that you’re not alone. We encourage you to advocate for the principles of composed, reasoned, and constructive discussions with individuals who are significant to you, including your family, friends, or coworkers. (Simply enter NODONATION if you don’t wish to donate to the nonprofit.)

We value your support and look forward to welcoming you to the event!

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Thank you for being among our initial blog subscribers. After having recently introduced our free Substack newsletter and podcast, we are now able to announce an optional paid subscription plan.

To reward our existing subscribers, we’re delighted to offer you a free 90-day trial! This special deal is only available until 14th March – so don’t miss your chance!

Signing up means that, in addition, you will:

  • Be supporting the Plato’s Academy Centre in its project goals! Spreading awareness of the modern relevance of ancient philosophy, and helping to bring philosophy back to the original location of Plato’s Academy in Athens!
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Friends of Plato’s Academy Centre

You also have the option of choosing to become a Founding Member of the Plato’s Academy Centre, for which we will recognize your contribution, and provide you with access to inside information on our project, and our most exclusive content.

Last year, we were proud, in addition to launching our program of virtual events, to be able to assist in organizing a historic event in Plato’s Academy Park, in collaboration with the Aurelius Foundation and Young Presidents Organization. The Greek ministers for Development and Culture gave us their support, as did the US ambassador to Greece, and we were honoured to have the mayor of Athens address our audience in Akadimia Platonos Park.

Donald Robertson, Justin Stead, Kostas Bakoyannis, Pat Cash, and Michalis Michael, at Plato’s Academy Park

We were also pleased to have our nonprofit startup covered in the press, including a feature on the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Thanks, as ever, for your support!

Donald Robertson

President of the Plato’s Academy Centre

Announcing the new Plato’s Academy Centre Podcast

We’re delighted to announce that we have just launched a new podcast hosted on Substack, which is also distributed via Apple and Google Podcasts.

Spencer Klavan: Civic Friendship & Politics as an Act of Love Philosophy and Classics

Spencer Klavan is the author of How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for 5 Modern Crises and assistant editor of The Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind at the Claremont Institute. With a PhD in Classics, Klavan's literary expertise is aided by his knowledge of many languages, including Ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. As a scholar who enjoys exploring how great works of literature provide valuable insights into today's world, Klavan hosts Young Heretics every Tuesday.Highlights* Rational discourse is a team sport, a shared pursuit for the wisdom we both seek about the thing and the effort we make at getting it* Seeking excellence, moral virtue, and flourishing is the first step, the atomic building block, for living well together—seeking mutual good in the form of community and relationships* Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 9.8* Fundamentally, when we form political community, we do so because we collectively agree that there is such a thing as justicePlato's Academy Centre Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Get full access to Plato's Academy Centre Newsletter at platosacademycentre.substack.com/subscribe
  1. Spencer Klavan: Civic Friendship & Politics as an Act of Love
  2. Ward Farnsworth: The Socratic Method
  3. Double Ignorance and Socratic Irony
  4. Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living Audiobook
  5. Spotting Common Fallacies

Mark Tuitert: Train Your Stoic Mindset

Mark Tuitert

Mark Tuitert is a former Dutch speed skating champion. He won gold at the 1500m at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He is now a public speaker, podcaster, and author. Mark is the author of the book DRIVE: Train je stoïcijnse mindset, from Maven Publishing, due to be translated into English as DRIVE: Train your stoic mindset in 2023.

[This interview was transcribed by Kasey Robertson from audio provided by Mark Tuitert]

How did you become interested in philosophy?

As a teenage boy, I was really interested in history. I loved it, in fact. I was always curious as to how history played out and why things happened the way they did, why historical figures made the choices they did etc. Wars of the last century intrigued me but also the classical age. The Romans and the Greeks particularly fascinated me.

When I was 20 years old, I became really ambitious and focused on professional sports. I was one of the big talents in speed skating. So, I pursued my dream of wanting to become an Olympic champion. I signed a big contract and I had a lot of media requests, so I was the new rising star leading up to the Olympics of Salt Lake City in 2002.

On the other hand, I was also struggling at home. My parents were having a rough divorce, constantly fighting. As the eldest of three boys, and because I loved my family, I tried to take charge and intervene thinking I could stop it. However, the harder I tried the worse it seemed to get.

I wanted to release all of this pent-up negative emotion, so I trained harder. I trained relentlessly, thinking that I could cope better by proving myself, but I wound up overtraining. So, in 2002, during the Olympic Games at Salt Lake City, I laid in my bed sick. I laid there for probably 6 months. I simply could not train, and so I was forced to rest. I began to hear whispers in my world of sports like, “It’s the end of his career” and “We won’t be seeing him back again…” To me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I knew I had to do something about this. So I thought, “I’ll just train even harder! Yeah, that’s it…”

When I’m in the tunnel of training hard, I put blinders on that block everything else out. I knew I was fooling myself, though. I was seeing things from an unhealthy perspective, and my life and health were reflections of that. That’s when I found philosophy. I wanted to learn how to achieve balance in my life, to make the right choices, be a good person, live a good life, but still keep my ambition and pursue my dream of being a successful speed skater.

I found that Stoic philosophy helped me in all areas of my life, both personal and career.

I found that Stoic philosophy helped me in all areas of my life, both personal and career. I now view all facets of my life through a Stoic lens. Yes, I had looked into other schools of philosophy but the Stoics really inspired me most. They helped me find a stronghold in the storm of life and I love it.

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

I teach a couple of concepts, but I think the most important concept is about anger. Many people have expressed that they related to my feeling anger towards my father, and how it was unknowingly keeping me back.

I had missed a few Olympics by 2006, my goal was to win a medal…but I didn’t get there. I wasn’t reaching my full potential somehow. I didn’t skate the way I should and it became quite unsettling. Determined to find what this roadblock was, I dug deep within myself. That’s when I realized that it was my deep-seated anger that was holding me back; my anger towards my father for the agonizing divorce from my mother. However, viewing the situation again through a Stoic lens, I could see that I needed to separate how I felt about him from the divorce. I held onto the initial reaction, though, and I had a hard time moving forward because of that.

One of the greatest Stoic philosophers puts it beautifully: “When we are frustrated, angry or unhappy, never hold anyone except ourselves – that is, our judgments – accountable” and “It is not events that disturb us but our judgements about them.” If you have an event, something that happens to you and it provokes an emotion, we accept the initial emotion as how we truly feel and adopt it as truth. But that’s the wrong way of thinking. There’s something in between judgment and the event, and that’s your own opinion. What a powerful concept. For me, the event was the divorce of my parents fighting each other while my emotion was anger towards my father. But in between is my opinion, or my judgment about my father.

Once I found the source of my personal and professional hindrance, I asked myself what are the judgements I currently have about my father? Well, he was a bad father. The next question was, are you a better father today than he was then? Also, do you know what it’s like not to have contact for 6 years with your sons? I strive to be a better father, but also no, I don’t know what it’s like to not have contact with my children for 6 years. However, I’m the one who chose not to have that contact. So, instead of judging, I think it’s wiser to try to understand, to ask good questions and suspend judgment like Socrates would.

I promote this example in my talks and in my book, Train Your Stoic Mindset. My goal is to teach people to separate their judgements from the event, much like Epictetus. For separating our own judgements from the events that occur in our lives helps us achieve clarity, allowing us to see the fallacy in our perspective. I worked on separating those judgements over the course of 4 years, leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It was there that I won the gold medal.

This process of questioning my initial judgments, and letting go of them, freed me. I felt so much room to excel and I didn’t feel angry anymore. I chose to lose those negative emotions and for me, that’s what Stoicism is especially about – learning to detach yourself from a situation to gain a healthier perspective. You have the power to rid yourself of these negative emotions. It’s your choice. One you do, life becomes better overall, more fun. I now have more energy, positive energy, that I use to follow my own path as an athlete, as a man, and as a person.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

Yes, I do, A couple actually. I often quote Marcus Aurelius, as I think he writes down his quotes beautifully. I love “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” I refer to that a lot to cope with setbacks. My perspective has become that it’s not an obstacle that blocks our paths, we can actually move further. It’s up to us to find a new direction.

I love also what Epictetus tells us about how if we’re in the classroom, we think we know how everything works. But when you drag us out into the field, out into the real world, we don’t know anything.

We indeed are able to write and to read these things, and to praise them when they are read, but we do not even come near to being convinced of them. Therefore what is said of the Lacedaemonians, “Lions at home, but in Ephesus foxes,” will fit in our case also, “Lions in the school, but out of it foxes.” – Discourses, 4.5

There’s a sort of humbleness in this philosophy. You never think of yourself as superior to anything or anyone. You reflect on life. To live is to wrestle, like Marcus Aurelius would say, right? The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing. We have to be ready for the unforeseen.

You touch on being careful not to use that you are “too busy” as an excuse in a blog on your site. Can you elaborate?

Yes, well, I sometimes use that as an excuse. When you say to friends “No, I’m too busy to do this; I’m too busy to do that”, you’re actually fooling because it’s not that you’re too busy. You have priorities in life, and you act according to those priorities. I have my kids, my family, my work, my book, my presentations. I do some television work too. So, of course, I’m busy, but I do the things I want to do. I have a sort of hierarchy in the things I find important in life, and I start with that hierarchy. I always put the things I find most important on top. So that means I cannot do other things, but I cannot use the excuse of being “too busy”.

If I’m honest with myself, I have to say, yeah, this is not important enough to me for me to spend my time on right now. Of course, that’s not always the way in real life. Sometimes you can say you are too busy and that’s okay but only if you’re not kidding yourself. So, if you say to somebody else that you’re too busy, and you really think you are too busy, you are self-deceived.

If you can say you’re too busy and know consciously that it’s because what’s being asked of you seems less important to you than other things, that’s okay. I don’t find anything wrong with that. But if you use the excuse often, and you actually think you are too busy, then you have it wrong. The thing you are struggling with saying yes to is probably something that is not important enough to you.

A friend of mine once replied, “Mark, you’re not too busy.” When I used to say I was too busy he would say: “You have a lot of things going on in your life that you find more important. But ‘too busy’ is not the proper excuse. You would just rather do something else.” I thought, yeah, that is true. So from that moment on, I’m really keen on avoiding using that term too often.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

If you’d like to, you can read my book, DRIVE: Training Your Stoic Mindset. It’s slated to release in English next year. I have given quite a few talks as well, using my Olympic story and its Stoic foundation. Many people ask me about Stoic philosophy right after my talks. They hit me up on Instagram as well or send emails. I think that’s beautiful. That’s really become my mission in these last few years is getting in touch with people in order to get them in touch with Stoicism. I believe the philosophy can help them deal with life’s challenges, with parents, with work, with negative emotions and so on. It has really become my mission to help people who are struggling in their everyday lives, to light a fire under them and inspire them to read more about Stoicism and apply it.

DRIVE: Training Your Stoic Mindset, reads like a training manual because I’m used to training manuals. I believe we should not just train our bodies to become fit, but train our minds to be flexible and resilient.

You can also check out my website. It’s in English too. There you’ll find some info and also look at my YouTube channel for some short presentations. You can also follow me on Instagram, although most of my captions are in Dutch. I hope to transition more to English because I would love to be part of the international Stoic community.

Suppose you will be able to give a workshop at Plato’s Academy in Athens about resilience. How would you feel about that?

Well, that would be great. I think I have my own take on Stoic philosophy, performance and life, and I would love to share that take. So hopefully people are inspired or I can light up the spark that lights the fire within someone’s mind to think about things in a different way, to open up, to free themselves of negative emotions.

I think that’s one of the main reasons why we are all philosophers in some way. We try to work our way through life by thinking and asking ourselves questions, such as “Are we living a good life? Is this worthwhile? Does it resonate for me and for other people? And who am I in a community? What do I bring to the community? What what are the most important things in life? And do I live my life by these standards?” So many questions to ask yourself, and that’s, I think, a beautiful part of philosophy. It’s the life questions you ask yourself. It’s the the inspiration you get from the big philosophers coming after Socrates, of course, and the philosophers before that too, like Heraclitus. They inspired me a lot.

So I would love to come to the Plato’s Academy Centre. I would love to come to Athens again. I was there two weeks ago with all of you and it really inspired me. It’s really cool to feel the connection with the original place where philosophy flourished – and also democracy, trade, life flourished there. I think we are drawn to that place, and to that philosophy, again, especially now with the world seeming to be in chaos because of war, inflation, economy, environmental crises. It’s an interesting time and an interesting place. So I think, maybe more than ever, we can benefit from classical philosophy.

Mark Tuitert speaking at the original site of Plato’s Academy in Athens

If I can play a part in that whole, I would love to do so. That would be a really great thing! I would cherish doing that worldwide, like a real cosmopolitan, meeting people all over the world who are inspired by philosophy or inspired by Stoicism. If I can help to share that inspiration, that passion, and do it from my own points of view, such as being an athlete, and being a father, yeah, I would just love to do that. Thank you for giving me the opportunity with his interview. I’m sure we’ll meet again. I would love to be part of future events in Athens.

Mark Tuitert, Drive

Announcing Virtual Event: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Leadership

Stories of Character, Confidence and Success

Virtual conference from Plato’s Academy Centre

What does it mean to be a great leader? How can leadership help others to succeed? And how should we define success in the modern world? If you’re interested in these questions, this is the online event for you!

When you register you’ll have the option to donate an amount of your choosing (or even nothing).* All proceeds go toward the Plato’s Academy Centre nonprofit. Not available or in a different time zone? Don’t worry as recordings will be provided afterwards if you book your tickets now. Thanks for your support – it helps us to keep running these events in the future. (If you do not wish to make a donation, though, you can use the promo code NODONATION.)

What’s it all about?

We bring together a special program of world-class thinkers and renowned authors for an exclusive online event that you absolutely won’t want to miss.

Each speaker will share with you their knowledge and captivating insights into philosophy and leadership, including real life examples, practical advice, and effective strategies.


Additional speakers and presentation titles to be confirmed shortly!

  • Keynote: Justin Stead, CEO of Radley, founder of the Aurelius Foundation (30 min.)
  • Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor and Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, president of Plato’s Academy Centre (20 min)
  • Kasey Pierce, editor of Verissimus and 365 Ways to be More Stoic
  • Barb Kondilis, Art, Graffiti in the City
  • Vitaliy Katsenelson, author of Soul in the Game
  • Tom Morris, author of The Everyday Patriot and If Aristotle Ran General Motors
  • Diane Kalen-Sukra, author of Save Your City, and founder of civic leadership academy
  • Andrew McConnell, author of Get out of My Head
  • Ivan Biava, Senior Customer Director at Omie, founder of Estoicismo Prático
  • Tiišetšo Maloma, author of Ubuntu Stoicism
  • Artemios Miropoulos , author of The Nameless King:15 Stories of Leadership from Ancient Greece
  • Eugenia Manolidou, founder of Elliniki Agogi
  • Mick Mulroy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for the Middle East. Senior Fellow for National Security and Defense Policy with the Middle East Institute, an Analyst for ABC News, and the Lobo Institute’s Co-founder
  • Anya Leonard, founder of Classical Wisdom Weekly
  • Dr. Sean Lyons, Professor of Leadership and Management, Department of Management, University of Guelph

NB: Details may be subject to change without prior notification.

Who will be hosting?

Our hosts will be Donald Robertson, the president of the Plato’s Academy Centre, and Anya Leonard, the founder and director of the Classical Wisdom website.

About Plato’s Academy Centre

The Plato’s Academy Centre is a new nonprofit, based in Greece, run by a multidisciplinary team of volunteers from around the world. Our mission is to make ancient Greek philosophy more accessible to a wider international audience and to celebrate the legacy of Plato’s Academy in Athens. Everyone is welcome to join us.


  1. Will recordings be available? Yes, everyone who orders a ticket in advance will automatically have access after the event to recordings of all presentations. So don’t worry if you’re unavailable at these times or located in another time zone.
  2. Will it be too academic for me? While many of our speakers are notable academics, the sessions are aimed at a nonacademic audience.
  3. How much does it cost? We’re making it free to register, so it’s available to the widest possible audience, but you’ll have the opportunity to make a donation, amount of your choosing. As a rough guide, tickets for a physical conference like this might normally cost €150. Your generosity helps support our nonprofit’s work and allows us to reach more people through future events. *If you do not wish to donate anything whatsoever, you may contact us directly to apply for a free ticket or simply enter the promo code NODONATION when booking.
  4. Where can I get updates? Follow our Facebook Event page and our Twitter account for updates on this event.


We’re grateful to our board of advisors, Orange Grove incubator, Classical Wisdom, and the Aurelius Foundation, for their support in bringing you this event. Special thanks to Phil Yanov, Gabriel Fleming, and Kasey Robertson for their help organizing the event.

Socrates as Sergeant Major

Antonio Canova - Socrates Rescues Alcibiades

The ancient Greek philosopher and war hero

By Donald Robertson and Mick Mulroy

Antonio Canova - Socrates Rescues Alcibiades

[Socrates] was the first to go out as a soldier, when it was necessary, and in war, he exposed himself to danger most unsparingly.

Epictetus, Discourses, 4.1

The Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War was fought between the two most powerful city-states in ancient Greece, namely Athens and Sparta, and their allies, known as the Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues, respectively.  During this time, the Mediterranean region was engulfed in one of history’s longest and most brutal wars, spanning almost three decades.  At the outbreak of the war, in 431 BC, Socrates, the famous Athenian philosopher, was aged forty, and would already have seen intermittent military service as a citizen-soldier, fighting in minor conflicts since his early twenties.

At the outset of the Peloponnesian War, Athens, Greece’s dominant naval power, and Sparta, with her legendary infantry, were evenly matched adversaries.  However, Persia’s involvement and the growing confidence of the Spartan navy, led to the catastrophic destruction of the Athenian fleet by the Spartan general Lysander, at the Battle of Aegospotami in 405 BC. The city of Athens was blockaded and, before long, forced to surrender, leaving Sparta as the controlling power in Greece.  With both Athens and Sparta significantly weakened, though, during the 4th century BC, the way was clear for a new power, the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, to rise and gradually take their place.

Socrates went on to become a veteran of at least three major battles of the Peloponnesian War.  Indeed, he was well-known in Athens not only as a philosopher but also, to some extent, as a war hero.

Socrates the Soldier

At the end of his life, Socrates cited his military service, and reputation for bravery, during his trial, as recounted in Plato’s Apology.  The experiences he had in war clearly shaped his perception of the world, and his philosophy.  

At eighteen, he would have taken the sacred oath of the Ephebic College, through which he received his basic training:

I will never bring reproach upon my hallowed arms, nor will I desert the comrade at whose side I stand, but I will defend our altars and our hearths, single-handed or supported by many. My native land I will not leave a diminished heritage but greater and better than when I received it. I will obey whoever is in authority and submit to the established laws and all others which the people shall harmoniously enact. If anyone tries to overthrow the constitution or disobeys it, I will not permit him, but will come to its defense, single-handed or with the support of all. I will honor the religion of my fathers. Let the gods be my witness, Agraulus, Enyalius, Ares, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone.

During these years, Socrates learned to serve as a heavy infantryman or hoplite, using the sword and spear as a member of the phalanx, the standard Athenian military unit. His weapons and equipment would have weighed around 66 pounds.  He had to travel great distances bearing these, with little sleep, camped outside in the elements, eating basic soldier’s rations, just to engage the enemy in brutal physical combat where few would escape injury or death.

Socrates went on to become a veteran of at least three major battles of the Peloponnesian War.  Indeed, he was well-known in Athens not only as a philosopher but also, to some extent, as a war hero.  His circle of friends included several military veterans and elected generals.  Indeed, Xenophon and Plato, our two main sources, both portray Socrates being consulted by the officer class about military questions, including training, strategy, and tactics. 

He saved the life of a young officer (and future general) called Alcibiades, who had been wounded during the Battle of Potidaea.  As a consequence, Socrates was nominated for the “prize of pre-eminent valor” but declined to accept the award.  He was also known for protecting general Laches, who had been unhorsed during the retreat from the Battle of Delium, when the Athenians were being sorely harassed by the enemy.  Laches reputedly commented on the high regard he had for Socrates “ever since the day on which you were my companion in danger and gave a proof of your valor such as only the man of merit can give.”  

All three major battles in which Socrates participated ended in defeat for Athens.  According to Plato, nevertheless, Alcibiades said of Socrates’ courage: “when you behave as he did, then the enemy does not even touch you; instead, they pursue those who turn in headlong flight.”  Laches is likewise portrayed as saying that if every man under his command at Delium had fought as bravely as Socrates, their enemy would have erected no victory statues.  Xenophon, another famous general, said that Socrates was the most disciplined man he knew in terms of his appetites, that he had built up his endurance of extreme hot and cold weather, and other such hardships, and had learned to be self-sufficient and content with minimal possessions. 

The last major battle he fought was at Amphipolis, in northern Greece, in 422 BC.  Socrates, by this time, was aged forty-eight, and still trekking over hills with heavy weapons and armor, to stand his ground in the phalanx, alongside much younger men.  He appears to have been the type of soldier who would be selected as a centurion in the Roman army, or a Ranger or Green Beret today – he would be a perfect Sergeant Major.  Socrates became the most famous philosopher in history, though, and his reputation as a thinker, therefore, eclipsed his renown as a warrior.  We remember him as a philosopher rather than a soldier. Perhaps it should be as a philosopher-soldier, though. How, indeed, might Socrates’ experience as a soldier have shaped his views as a philosopher?

Temperance (Self-Discipline)

Socrates was renowned for his mental and physical endurance. He was said to be stronger than most men.  He could go longer than anyone without food, water, or rest. He would even volunteer to take other soldiers’ watches, so they could get some sleep. He was obviously a natural leader and set an example for the younger infantrymen to emulate.  Socrates thought it should be self-evident that true leaders require self-control. A military officer, for example, who is easily swayed by desire, cannot be trusted, for that reason, to act consistently in accord with his knowledge and expertise. However, “just as those who do not exercise their bodies cannot carry out their physical duties, so those who do not exercise their characters”, by developing self-control, “cannot carry out their moral duties.”  

It was also Socrates’ belief, though, according to Xenophon, that self-discipline itself is a question of knowledge and that those of us who lack self-control invariably also lack a sort of wisdom.  Temperance, or moderation, comes from having a clear understanding of what is good for us.  He said that “all men have a choice between various courses, and choose and follow the one which they think is most to their advantage.”  We must train ourselves to look beyond appearances at the underlying reality, to see more clearly what is in our own interest and in the interests of our society. 

Socrates’ military service had taught him to risk his life for the sake of his moral values. 

Justice (Fairness)

During his trial, for alleged impiety and corrupting the youth (by teaching them philosophy), Socrates brought up his military service.  He reminded the jurymen that he had stood his ground in the phalanx, under the command of the elected generals, facing mortal danger alongside his fellow hoplites at Potidaea, Delium, and Amphipolis.  Nobody questioned his bravery or honor when risking his life in this way.  Some people, however, thought it was ridiculous for Socrates to risk his life in court by insisting on practicing philosophy.  Socrates told them that the opposite was true.  

He believed that the god Apollo, whose commandment was “know thyself,” had, like a general, given him orders that he was duty-bound to obey.  His mission was to question his fellow Athenians about the nature of wisdom and virtue.  It would be even more dishonorable and ridiculous for him now to desert that post.  What point was there risking his life to defend the city of Athens against Sparta if he was not prepared to do the same to preserve the moral character of the city he loved and the citizens within its walls?  In other words, Socrates’ military service had taught him to risk his life for the sake of his moral values.  Back in civilian life, this actually brought him into conflict with powerful political figures, and it came to a head because he was willing to risk his own safety as an individual in the name of justice to preserve the moral integrity of the city.  

Fortitude (Courage)

Socrates was fascinated by the concept of courage and discussed it in depth with several Athenian generals in Plato’s Laches.  Did his experience of military service contribute to his questions about the nature of courage?  When Socrates asks Laches for a definition of courage, he begins by offering a conventional Greek military example: that it consists in standing one’s ground, i.e., remaining in phalanx formation, when facing the enemy.  He’s describing what courage among infantrymen looks like from the perspective of an external observer, such as their commanding officer.  

Socrates questions this narrow definition very thoroughly and arrives at an alternative account focused more on mental attitude: courage is knowing what it is and is not appropriate to fear.  In Plato’s Apology, after mentioning his military service, Socrates likewise goes on to raise some very radical questions about whether or not it is wise to fear death.  He said that only a fool would embrace a known evil in order to evade something whose dangers are unknown.  He, therefore, arrived at the typically paradoxical conclusion that we should be more afraid of committing injustice than we are of our own death.  When the jurymen voted in favor of the death sentence at his trial, he reputedly said that his accusers, Anytus and Meletus, could kill him but they could not harm him.  He meant that although they could take away his life, they could never take away his honor.   

About the Authors

Michael “Mick” Patrick Mulroy is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, a retired CIA officer, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, an Analyst for ABC News, on the board of directors for Grassroots Reconciliation Group, a co-founder of End Child Soldiering, and the co-founder of the Lobo Institute. He writes and speaks often on Stoicism. For other publications please visit here.

Donald J. Robertson is a cognitive-behavioural therapist and writer, living in Athens, Greece, and Ontario, Canada. He is the author of six books on philosophy and psychotherapy, including Stoicism and the Art of Happiness, and How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.

Register Now for “How to Think Like Socrates!”

Socratic Method Virtual Event

Our virtual conference on the Socratic Method will take place on 27th August, so make sure you register now.

How to Think Like Socrates

Virtual conference on reasoning like a Greek philosopher

If you’re interested in how Greek philosophy and the Socratic Method can help us think more clearly and live better lives today, this is the online event for you!

When you register you’ll have the option to donate an amount of your choosing (or even nothing).* All proceeds go toward the Plato’s Academy Centre nonprofit. Not available or in a different time zone? Don’t worry as recordings will be provided afterwards if you book your tickets now.

What’s it all about?

We bring together a special program of world-class thinkers and renowned authors for an exclusive online event that you absolutely won’t want to miss.

Each speaker will share with you their knowledge and captivating insights into the Socratic Method, including effective and practical advice and strategies to think critically, reason more clearly, and protect yourself against misleading information and sophistry.


  • Opening Keynote: “Socrates and Alcibiades: How to Think About Statesmanship”, Massimo Pigliucci, author of How To Be Good: What Socrates Can Teach Us About the Art of Living Well (30 min)
  • “Socrates as Cognitive Therapist”, Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor and Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, president of Plato’s Academy Centre (20 min)
  • “Socrates and Civility”, Alexandra O. Hudson, author of Against Politeness (20 min)
  • “How to Question Like Socrates”, Christopher Phillips, PhD, author of Socrates Cafe and Soul of Goodness, founder of SocratesCafe.com (20 min)
  • “Cognitive Therapy and Socratic Self-Doubt”, R. Trent Codd, III, CBT Counseling Centers; Co-author of Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors (20 min)
  • “Street Epistemology: How to Think about Thinking”, Anthony Magnabosco, Executive Director of Street Epistemology International (20 min)
  • “Self-Socratic Method for Personal Growth”, Scott Waltman, PsyD, ABPP psychologist and co-author of Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors (20 min)
  • Closing Keynote: “The Socratic Method”, Ward Farnsworth, author of The Practicing Stoic and The Socratic Method (30 min)
  • Q&A with Panel (20 min)

NB: Details may be subject to change without prior notification.

Who will be hosting?

Our hosts will be Donald Robertson, the president of the Plato’s Academy Centre, and Anya Leonard, the founder and director of the Classical Wisdom website.

About Plato’s Academy Centre

The Plato’s Academy Centre is a new nonprofit, based in Greece, run by a multidisciplinary team of volunteers from around the world. Our mission is to make ancient Greek philosophy more accessible to a wider international audience and to celebrate the legacy of Plato’s Academy in Athens. Everyone is welcome to join us.


  1. Will recordings be available? Yes, everyone who orders a ticket in advance will automatically have access after the event to recordings of all presentations. So don’t worry if you’re unavailable at these times or located in another time zone.
  2. Will it be too academic for me? While many of our speakers are notable academics, the sessions are aimed at a nonacademic audience.
  3. How much does it cost? We’re making it free to register, so it’s available to the widest possible audience, but you’ll have the opportunity to make a donation, amount of your choosing. As a rough guide, tickets for a physical conference like this might normally cost €150. Your generosity helps support our nonprofit’s work and allows us to reach more people through future events. *If you do not wish to donate anything whatsoever, you may contact us directly to apply for a free ticket or simply enter the promo code NODONATION when booking.
  4. Where can I get updates? Follow our Facebook Event page and our Twitter account for updates on this event.


We’re grateful to our board of advisors, Orange Grove incubator, Classical Wisdom, and the Aurelius Foundation, for their support in bringing you this event. Special thanks to Phil Yanov, Gabriel Fleming, and Kasey Robertson for their help organizing the event.

Anthony Opoka: A Stoic and Didn’t Know It

Anthony Opoka

by Mick Mulroy

Several years ago, after serving most of my career in warzones, I lived and worked in Uganda. One of the missions we had was to support what the United States called Operation Observant Compass, the joint effort between the U.S. and the Ugandan military to end the Lord’s Resistance Army  or LRA. 

The LRA is an insurgency group against the government of Uganda that was founded in 1987 by Joseph Kony, one of the most wanted persons in the world. The group is known for its widespread use of abducted children forced to be soldiers and commit atrocities such as murder and rape and would be killed for refusing to obey. Estimates vary, but 10 to 20 thousand children were forced into the LRA as soldiers. 

While serving in Uganda and working on this operation, I first met Anthony Opoka at a remote Base in the jungle of Central Africa. He was a ‘cultural advisor’ to the operation. I told Anthony that I had spent almost my whole career fighting alongside local militaries and militias in conflict areas. I was also very much a student and a practitioner of irregular warfare, including insurgencies and counterinsurgencies.

We became friends almost immediately, something that from my perspective usually takes more time. I asked him if he had an injury to his arm as I had noticed him holding his wrist. He said that he did have ‘big injury’ where he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.  I asked whether that happened while fighting the LRA, and he responded ‘No, I was LRA.’

Anthony single handedly talked dozens of child soldiers into defecting and leaving the fight, likely saving their lives. It was Anthony that positively identified Dominic Ongwen, the deputy of Joseph Kony, 2014 who was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, rape, torture, and enslavement at the International Criminal Courts in 2021. 

One thing that most people recognize about Anthony is how easy it is to talk to him and how he puts you at ease almost immediately. He truly exhibits the ‘Stoic Calm’ that all of us Stoics seek in ourselves. He does it without effort. I started trying to emulate him. In addition to the counter-LRA mission, we had a significant counter-terrorism mission with the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab from Somalia, posing a significant threat to Uganda and the Americans there. Including an attempt that we thwarted at the last minute.  

I started to see that everything that made a Stoic a true Stoic was right there in a person who had never even heard of the concept or the philosophy.

I started to see that everything that made a Stoic a true Stoic was right there in a person who had never even heard of the concept or the philosophy. The Cardinal Virtues that Stoics derived from Plato’s Republic of Courage, Justice, Wisdom, and Temperance. That and living in conjunction with nature were how to achieve eudaimonia.

Anthony was well known for his Courage. I began to interview many of them while researching the counter-insurgency efforts before the U.S. participation in the academic journal Center for the Studies of Intelligence. Everyone that served with him had stories of his bravery in combat (although in the LRA, the soldiers had an unusual bond to one another far above and apart from their allegiance to Joseph Kony). 

There were no awards for this, no accolades; he risked his life to save his friends because that is who he was. When Anthony asked his friend to smuggle his wife Florence and children out of the bush, he did so, thinking that he would undoubtedly be executed for that act. When I asked him if the decision at least gave him pause before deciding it, he simply said ‘no.’

Justice was something that was never afforded to Anthony. He was from a very rural village of mud huts with no running water or electricity. The government of Uganda treated the Acholi (the tribe of Anthony) as second-class citizens. They were brutal in their treatment, leading to multiple uprisings, including the establishment of the LRA. The same group ostensibly established to protect the people of northern Uganda soon turned on them, essentially enslaving them as a child army. 

In the LRA justice was swift, brutal, and at the whims of Joseph Kony, who could, with one decision, kill an entire village or turn on his own soldiers ordering their execution. Anthony was often on the receiving end of this brutality. When he finally escaped and had the opportunity to leave this horrible part of his life behind him, he didn’t. He became the leading person talking other LRA soldiers into escaping as well. 

After their escape, he and his wife were often the only support they had as many of their villages refused to take them back. Anthony became an integral part of the program to help them get accepted. A process that still exists today and is run by a organization called Grassroots Reconciliation Group, of which Anthony and Florence are still a part. They fought for justice for those who had never had it in a community that refused to provide it at first. Justice for Anthony was fairness tied to compassion.

Wisdom in the Stoic sense is beyond just knowledge of a subject; it is also genuine intellectual curiosity, ingenuity, and the ability to develop a position based on where the facts lead and not just where you want them to lead. Anthony had an uncommon wisdom. It did not come from former extended schooling, as that was limited and cut short with his childhood abduction. Anthony is the most clever person I have ever met. It likely saved his life many times over. 

When he was injured severely, he no longer could fully be a soldier. Something the LRA leadership may have considered a liability. He could have quickly been shot and discarded as not worth keeping around, but Anthony had a skill they needed more than ever. He could navigate by using the stars, a skill his father had taught him and one that the LRA required as they could only travel at nights as the Ugandan Army had begun indiscriminately targeting the LRA with helicopter gunships during the day, likely saving many of his fellow soldiers. 

After this, Anthony was chosen to be a radio operator and code-talker for the leadership to, include Joseph Kony because of his ability to learn new skills. These skills made Anthony valuable in assisting the mission to end the LRA as a viable insurgency and save countless future child soldiers that would have been forced into that organization. 

Temperance can often elude someone who has seen even a fraction of what Anthony had seen. Often, former child soldiers become the most violent of militia leaders and perpetuate the abuse that was inflicted upon them. Anthony somehow managed to avoid any of these problems.. 

Like others of my CIA generation, I had many friends killed in the Afghanistan, Iraq, and others wars. After leaving Uganda, more friends were killed, and my wife and I was part of the notification of the family. Families that were essentially our own. It was my conversations with Anthony that helped me get through this. Someone who knew what I was talking about, but also someone that had already become the rock for many, and now me.

My interest in exploring the pre-U.S. counter-insurgency effort soon became a fascination with Anthony and Florence’s personal story. I believe a story could inspire former child soldiers around the world or anyone who thought they faced overwhelming odds that were not worth fighting.  Their story proved that it was always worth the fight. 

I started an amateur documentary and recruited my friends to assist as I was required to have other Americans with me to travel to this area of Uganda due to the remoteness and potential hazards. Matt Sullivan, Brina Bunt, Cara Dana and my future business partner Eric Oehlerich who along with Mark Rausenberger put the eventual documentary together with me. 

At the time, it would take us six hours to drive to Anthony and Florence village. It was as remote as it was when they were there as children.  After filming the documentary (eventually called My Star in the Sky) every day with the villagers as the actors, we would sit around the fire and eat. Very basic food cooked over the fire, and watch people tell stories or sing. No TV, no iPads, no nothing but people and a camp fire. People laughing, talking, and just being there in that moment.  

I don’t want to overly romantize it. Its was a tough life, but everytime when were driving back to Kampala and the urban diplomat life, the American with me would comment on how surprised they were at how happy they all were. How they would love to sit around the dinner table and just talk with their kids without the distractions of modernity.  It was the last in the pillars, living in harmony with nature.  It showed me that what really matters in not what you own, its who you are.

 Anthony was by all accounts a ‘Stoic and didn’t know it.’ 

The story of Anthony and Florence will soon be available for all to know as award winning New York Times best-selling author Mark Sullivan is in the final stages of a book on their life. A portion of the proceeds will go to the charity End Child Soldiering, founded by Eric Oehlerich and the author.

About the author:

Michael “Mick” Patrick Mulroy, is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, a retired CIA paramilitary operations officer from their Special Activities Center and U.S. Marine, an ABC News national security and defense analyst, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, a co-founder of the Lobo Institute and End Child Soldiering, on the board of advisors for Grassroots Reconciliation Group and on the board of advisors for Plato’s Academy Centre. He is also the godfather of two of Anthony’s son’s.  

Anthony Opoka

Christopher Phillips: The Socrates Café Movement

Christopher Phillips

Christopher Phillips, PhD, is founder of the global Socrates Café movement, dedicated to making ours a more understanding, connected and participatory world through rigorous, methodical yet accessible philosophical questions. Hundreds of ongoing Socrates Cafés and kindred groups have been established, including in Saudi Arabia, with people of many ages and walks of life at venues including community and cultural centers, libraries, universities and schools, coffee houses, hospitals, prisons, as well as via virtual platforms.

In addition to many scholarly essays, he has authored an array of general interest books translated into many languages, including the acclaimed international bestsellers, Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, Six Questions of Socrates, as well as Socrates in Love, A Child at Heart and the upcoming Soul of Goodness. His various popular philosophical children’s books includes Philosophers’ Club and Day of Why.

Christopher has been Network Ethics Fellow at Harvard University, Senior Research and Writing Fellow at University of Pennsylvania, the first-ever senior education fellow at the National Constitution Center, and was recipient of the Distinguish American Leadership Award. Christopher’s newest book is Soul of Goodness: Transform Grievous Hurt, Betrayal and Setback into Love, Joy and Compassion. You can find out more about his work at ChristopherPhillips.com.

How did you become interested in this area (Philosophy)?

I had little choice but to become interested. As I write in my newest book, Soul of Goodness, when I was quite young my Greek grandmother, or Yaya, Calliope Kavazarakis Phillips, began to instill me with philosophical teachings that she herself had learned from her own parents. She was the oldest of eight, and as such in that matrilineal society (the oldest female sibling received and all inheritances, per tradition), she was a forbidding, astute, loving, incredibly intelligent and passionate person. Though I was raised in the Tidewater region of Virginia, I spent all my childhood and adolescent summers in Tampa, Florida, under my Yaya’s wing and tutelage. So while my friends back in Virginia were enjoying a leisurely break from the formal school year, I was being schooled by my Yaya, who took advantage of this time to instill me in all things bright and beautiful about my Greek heritage.

After immigrating (not once, but twice) from the tiny volcanic island of Nisyros, in the South Aegean, to the U.S. through Ellis Island and eventually settling in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, my yaya Calliope (named after the ancient Greek muse of wisdom and poetry) put out her shingle as a teacher of Greek language and culture. I believe she’s the very first one to have done that in Tampa.

As a youngster, I learned from my Yaya her unique take or slant on (what follows is notes I took when I was 11):

  • eudaimonia – Guarantor of human flourishing, wellness, prosperity, blessedness. Spirit of joy obtained through suffering and agony, when your heart is in another. “The one who lives well”—for arete—is blessed, prosperous and joyful.— Socrates, Plato’s Republic, Book 1
  • and atopos – Spirit of a wanderer rooted at home, apart from yet connected, out of place yet belonging, strange yet familiar, marvelous and distasteful – “This is a custom of [Socrates]: . . . he stands apart wherever he happens to be.”
  • and daimon – Divine voice of conscience, reflection, self-awareness, goodness
  • and sophrosyne – Spirit of a sound and healthy (good and just) mind and soul. Conductor of the spirit orchestra. Teaches you when to restrain and when to let loose, when to go it alone and when to team up. Socrates, Plato’s Republic, Book 4: “Sophrosyne . . . stretches through the whole, from top to bottom of the entire scale, making the weaker, the stronger, and those in the middle . . . sing the same chant together.”

As I write in Soul of Goodness, this is in essence “the chant of arete, a Hellenic Greek term for all-around excellence in all life’s dimensions. A siren song with sophia-scored notes, compelling you to lead a life outside common hours, marching to your own drummer. It does not lead one to set out to achieve the comparatively puny goals of happiness or the good life—goals commonly and scandalously misattributed to Socrates himself—but leads one to reach for kinds of excellence and joyousness on the other side of (or more likely, along with) suffering, agony, despair.

Even though I have since gone on to earn lots of lots of degrees, including three masters degrees and.a PhD, philosophy has remained earthy and down to earth for me, thanks to my Yaya Calliope, but in ways that inspire me forever to push outwards the bounds of creating, sculpting human ways of being

So I also learned about these rich concepts in ways that differ quite markedly from how they’re typically bandied about these days in academia and elsewhere. I try to set the record straight about them in Soul of Goodness, not as an end in itself but so readers can learn how to channel these concepts, which are also kinds of ‘spirits,’ I maintain, that can help get us through the most trying times.

I also was schooled by my Yaya Calliope about the pre-Socratics, about Zeno of Citium, to whom she took a particular shine; but her heart and soul was with Socrates. She gave me a collection of Plato’s Socratic dialogues when I was about 10, and I had but little choice to pour over it. Thankfully Plato, a poet and dramatist of the life of reason, was an engaging writer, and most of what he wrote wasn’t as over my head as I worried it might be. I became smitten with the Socrates he adumbrated – not just the historical version but latter versions that Plato featured and that also to me had an integrity and imaginative vision and intellectual honesty, even if that particular ‘iteration’ of Socrates didn’t exist in real life.

But these were not by any means mere didactic teachings. For her, the life of excellence and virtue hinged on cultivating what she referred to as the ‘Socratic spirit,’ a curious, fascinating amalgam of forces and practices and knowledge traditions that could see you through the most difficult times. I never really realized, until my father’s devastating unexpected death, how critical these teachings and practices of hers were in enabling me to see my way through all the terrifying ugliness that ensued in the wake of my father’s passing, and about which I write in Soul of Goodness – and not just as a memoir, but as a guide or path of sorts for others who themselves are experiencing grievous or extreme setbacks, reversals, loss, in their personal and private lives.

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

That’s a challenging question for me, in part, because I don’t consider myself a teacher (probably why I feel atopos in the academic cloister 🙂 – more of a ‘modeler.’ I consider myself an ‘openist’ (which is different that a ‘pluralist’), and by that I mean I try to be open to new discoveries, ‘surprises,’ paradigm shifts in knowing and creating, and to model and sculpt a type of persona, sensibility, ethos in which to live a life of conscience, excellence, integrity, boundless childlike curiosity.

Be that as it may, there are key Hellenic Greek concepts by which I live and do try to impart whenever given the opportunity. I sport a heart-shaped tattoo on my forearms with the Greek lettering for the concepts of arete and meraki. These are words I was brought up with on how to live. The one I would choose above all the others, since you have asked for one, is arete. As the great Greek scholar H.D.F. Kitto put it, arete is about being an excellent all-rounder, but with an ethos imbued, in which duty to self and to others goes hand in glove.

Christopher Phillips Tattoo

By the lofty benchmark of arete, we should, each in our singular way, strive to be excellent doers, thinkers, makers, strive to learn between and above and beyond any specific discipline or knowledge category, and strive for a kind axiological and existential way of being in which we never try to advance by self-aggrandizement, at the expense of others, but rather to immerse ourselves in this world in ways in which we’re always trying to make conditions more fertile for all our other fellow humans to be all to ‘be all they can be,’ always while cultivating a keener social conscience, sculpting ideas and ideals (and maybe imagining, discovering and realizing new ones along the way) that make our mortal moment one in which those who came before us would be most proud.

The concept of meraki (as well as others) is entwined (I say this as someone with dual Greek-U.S. citizenship) with this unique Greek way of living out loud, with passion, and commitment and joy, soulfully, rather Zorba-like – probably the towering public intellectual and philosopher Cornel West, my dear friend, a great Socratic thinker and unswerving supporter, would call it living a life of jazz, guided by an existential ‘Coltrane-ian’ ethos and pathos. In this way, you live with ‘Socratic spirit,’ with poetry and passion and commitment and unwavering discipline and stick-to-it-ive-ness that not only is about living an engaged present, spending yourself in a way that does justice to those who came before you (many if not most of whom had no opportunity to articulate much less realize) their more sublime aspirations, those present with you know, maybe starting with your own family and forever expanding outward the circle of inclusion from there, and those still to come, not just in the next immediate generations, but for hundreds of generations hence. I believe we’re largely lacking that kind of imaginative and empathic vision today in the age of woke and cancel culture and extraordinary polarization that can lead us to be isolated even from ourselves. All the more reason to try to model and example of how to live rightly and righteously, not in a one size fits all prescriptive way, but in a way that inspires others to find and chart their own unique path that always takes into account arete and meraki.

I have this tattooed on my forearms not so much as a reminder but an impetus that these are at the core of how I live. Socrates said in Plato’s Republic that all questions we examine should ultimately lead to greater insight into that question of questions, namely how one should live. But I think we need to cultivate concomitantly the spirits of arete, meraki, atopos, eudaimonia, sophrosyne, as we explore these questions – indeed, it’s sort of a ‘feedback loop,’ the spirits driving the Socratic method, and the method driving the spirits.

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

I’m not very practical by today’s benchmarks. Probably my most important piece of impractical advice is: you never know when your time is up, so give every day everything you have, take sublime risks if you have the opportunity, and try to do some good. Nietzsche said something to the effect that we shouldn’t requite evil with evil, but show those who have deliberately acted upon us and others in an evil way how they did us some good. But that can be too self-centered. I think we should, instead, when we are the victims of betrayal, loss, setback, and worse, because of the deliberate actions of others who may be filled with malignance, maliciousness, malevolence in this increasingly Age of Rage, that we should strive more than ever not to show how it did US some good per se, but how it drives us, more than ever, to DO GOOD, period. My own beloved father’s mysterious and untimely death certainly has, and all the ugly events that continue to swirl around it, more than anything else has made me even more driven to do what I can, while I can, to make ours a more heart-shaped world.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

That question has always resonated with me. I believe he posed that question at a high school discourse in 1967, as part of his speech’s overarching “What is your life’s blueprint?” theme. I never was called upon, by any legal statute (like conscription) to serve my country or world, yet for me it was incumbent to do so. I don’t really preach to others, but try to live by example. Here I am, nearly 63, and continuing to live on a wing and prayer, even though I have a family (a young one!) to provide for. It’s more important than ever to try to make ours a more connected and understanding world. One of our longtime Socrates Cafe organizers in San Antonio, Texas (we have over 500 Socrates Cafe ongoing gatherings around the globe – go to SocratesCafe.com to learn more), a wonderful retired educator named Marta Amezquita, recently wrote me to tell me, “I truly don’t know another person whose intent is to create community whose sole purpose is to deliberately make participants feel seen & be heard. It is the epitome of love.” I was deeply moved by Marta’s kind words to me, which I hope describe to the core all that I’ve sought to do this last quarter century (and more, really).

I relate in Soul of Goodness my formative experiences, living just outside of Washington, D.C. There I witnessed the aftermath of the riots after Dr. King’s assassination, bearing witness to ‘Resurrection City,’ a vast but temporary encampment that was a key part of the great people’s anti-poverty campaign in the Mall area of Washington, D.C. This drew tens of thousands from across the U.S. to give voice to the voiceless and address the glaring inequalities in society. I write in my new book about the serendipitous experience helping an overwhelmed single mother there that surely laid the foundation for everything I have done since. My grand aim in life is to make sure everyone not just has a voice, but the opportunity to develop, discover, contribute their voice as participatory co-creators of this world.

“No one recognized the linkage between, and drilled down into, Plato’s conception of a healthy soul and Shakespeare’s “soul of goodness” like the American transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is the only writer and thinker I’ve ever come across to link the two conceptions. In “Character,” Emerson tells us that “a healthy soul stands united with the Just and the True, as the magnet arranges itself with the pole; so that he stands to all beholders like a transparent object betwixt them and the sun, and whoso journeys towards the sun, journeys towards that person. He is thus the medium of the highest influence to all who are not on the same level. Thus, men of character are the conscience of the society to which they belong. Such a soul is the epitome of autonomy and social conscience, which aren’t at opposite ends of a continuum but inseparable.

from Soul of Goodness

Emerson then goes on to say that one with a soul of goodness escapes from any set of circumstances; whilst prosperity belongs to a certain mind, and will introduce that power and victory which is its natural fruit, into any order of events.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

First, I’d encourage them to take part in a Socrates Cafe. There are gatherings everywhere, and I also preside over them virtually by Zoom, so they are welcome to write me so I can let them know when our next ones are taking place. (If you can’t find a gathering near you, we have a guide on our SocratesCafe.com website on how to start and facilitate a Socrates Cafe) One other way to learn about me is to dip or dive into my books, from my first ones, Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy and Six Questions of Socrates: A Modern-Day Journey of Discovery through World Philosophy, to my latest, by far my most intimate and personal work, Soul of Goodness: Transform Grievous Hurt, Betrayal, and Setback Into Love, Joy, and Compassion.

In part, they might want to accompany me on the journey to sculpt a soul of goodness – and they can do that in part by using the complementary/complimentary guide that my wife and life partner Ceci (whom I met at a Socrates Cafe! she was the only one who attended that magical evening, as I write in ‘Socrates Cafe’) lovingly put together.

We also have a Socrates Cafe Youtube channel, which features everything from mini Socrates Cafes with my daughters to exchanges with luminaries like Cornel West,
author of the class ‘Race Matters’ .

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy. How would you feel about that?

I would be thrilled out of my mind. (And the prominent Greek publisher Livanis, which sponsored my Greek citizenship application – it flew through in record time –
is publishing my newest book in Greek, so all the more reason to venture there, as well as also pay a visit the island from which my forebears came to the U.S. and where I visit whenever possible. My last visit to Nisyros starts off my Soul of Goodness – nowhere else on this universe to I feel more connected to myself, my family, and the immensity
itself, then Nisyros.

If I gave a talk or workshop, it’d likely center around, ‘How to question like Socrates?’ The artful framing, and answering, of meaningful questions, as timely as they are timeless, has in large measure been lost, I lament. A method of questioning, from scientific to Socratic (they are kindred – and I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the Socratic Method) without an ethos of heartfelt listening with all one’s being, is bereft of something critical. It would be interactive, and so I’d model it by actually having participants such a questioning love-in. I’d certainly touch on key influences in my decision to commit my life to spreading Socratic inquiry far and wide – starting with Socrates, but also including Hannah Arendt, Walter Kaufmann, Justus Buchler, and ever so many others.

When you learn to truly question like Socrates – not as a Socrates imitator or emulator, but as someone who understands that the best methods of questioning evolve over time – you learn better to ‘do’ like Socrates, because you become ever more imbued with the Socratic spirits about which I write in in Soul of Goodness – because make no mistake, daimon, sophrosyne, atopos, daimon, even arete and meraki, are comprised of spirits among other things.

In fact, I have held Socrates Cafes in the very agora area where Socrates once held court in Athens, and I lead off with that in my Six Questions of Socrates. I’d have at it in really immersive inquiry, guiding it with the Socrates Cafe method that I’ve sculpted and evolved over these past 25 years. I’m something of an accidental scholar and academic, and never dreamed I’d have three masters degrees (in the humanities, in education with an unheard-of specialty in Teaching Philosophy for Children), and in the natural sciences (with a specialty in DNA science), and then earning a PhD in Communications from an amazing university in Perth, Australia, long after graduating in 1981 from the College of William & Mary with a BA in Government. But through a serendipitous chain of circumstances, I did become a lifelong learner who straddles the informal and formal teaching and learning and doing disciplines, and I believe I’m a better human being for it. I’ve never aimed or sought to be a full-time prof, but I simply love to learn about things that give me more of a poetic-metaphorical approach to live and living, not as an end in and of itself, but that helps me discover more about what I can and must do to make life more worth living – and perhaps more worth dying for – for one and all.

My aim in large measure is always this: We simply must counteract the pervasive predisposition to think in black and white terms. We have to go back to thinking in nuance, to thinking in a dazzling array of colors in ways that lead us to continually reflect and to challenge ourselves, to explore the lapses and loopholes in any given way of seeing things, especially our own. There is a lot of preaching and proselytism these days, but not even of the kind of introspection that can lead us to mordantly yet gently examine whether our own ideas and ideals are all they are cracked up to be. The ongoing Socrates Cafe gatherings – hundreds of them now, the world over (I never dreamed it would become a global phenomenon, much less that it would have such staying power and even momentum after all this time) – are places and spaces where listen to one another with all our being, with all our might and mind, where we use philosophical questions as the springboard and platform to further discover uncommon common ground and forge meaningful connections, even or especially with those with whom don’t see eye to eye, but are my fellow beloved human beings.

Soul of Goodness