Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Pantheon, $29.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-307-37819-4
Novelist and philosopher Goldstein (The Mind-Body Problem) has an imaginative conceit: to bring Plato into the 21st century by having him go on an American book tour. Here, Plato hauls around a Google Chrome computer, generally finds modern technology “wondrous,” and takes the Meyer-Briggs personality inventory. In lieu of Socratic dialogues, he engages in contemporary American ones, appearing in a panel at the 92nd Street Y to discuss education and child-rearing with a psychologist who sounds like Alice Miller and a writer who sounds like “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua. These witty contemporary sections constitute about a quarter of the book, while the remainder consists of an in-depth study of Plato’s views and the historical and intellectual context of his times. Goldstein explores such concepts as the Athenian ideals of areté and of achieving kleos, and topics such as the challenge to philosophy posed by contemporary science. She proves a clear and engaging writer, and though the more academic parts of this book take precedence over the entertaining and accessible contemporary passages, overall, this is both an enjoyable and a serious way to (re)learn Plato’s ideas. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/06/2014
Release date: 03/04/2014
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