PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away

Citation:

Goldstein R. PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Pantheon Books; 2014.

Abstract:

At the heart of the latest work from acclaimed philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein lies one question: is philosophy obsolete? In PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX (Pantheon Books/March 4), Goldstein proves why philosophy is here to stay – and in fact more relevant today than ever before – by revealing its hidden (though essential) role in today’s debates on religion, morality, politics, and science. Goldstein does so in a wholly unique way – by imagining Plato (the original philosopher) come to life in the twenty-first century. As he embarks on a multicity speaking tour, Goldstein asks: how would Plato handle a host on FOX News who denies that there can be morality without religion? How would he mediate a debate between a Freudian psychoanalyst and a Tiger Mom on how to raise the perfect child? How would he answer a neuroscientist who, about to scan Plato’s brain, argues that science has definitively answered the questions of free will and moral agency? And what would Plato make of Google, and the idea that knowledge can be crowdsourced rather than reasoned out by experts? Goldstein also provides an in-depth study of Plato’s views, while examining the culture responsible for producing them. With scholarly depth and a novelist’s imagination and wit, she probes the deepest issues confronting our time, by allowing us to understand the source of Plato’s theories, and to eavesdrop as he takes on the modern world.

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"The sparkle & vivacity of a Shaw play ... She brings off this tour de force with madcap brilliance & commanding authority."
The Washington Post

"ingenious, entertaining, and challenging"

The Atlantic

"The man who gave us philosophy as we know it is back, walking among us . . . .engaging with our current struggles. For this we must thank Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's inventiveness and intellectual courage."
—Marcelo Gleiser, NPR

"Philosopher Rebecca Goldstein probes why Plato--and the philosophical enterprise itself--remain a force in science and culture . . . . This thought experiment usefully casts an eye on our turbocharged century. And it shows what survives of this classical titan: an ability to plumb the deep questions we still grapple with, from the nature of knowledge to morality."
—Nature

Books like Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex are of the rare type that contribute to the popularization of knowledge and create appetite for more. After reading this book you will . . . question your views and knowledge about politics, psychology, science, history, and ethics.
— Liana Giorgi, New York Journal of Books

"She is a playful, buoyant, witty stylist who parses intractably difficult philosophical and religious ideas with breathtaking ease. ...She is also smarter than me, you, and most people on earth… Philosophy won’t go away as long as Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is around to remind us of its enduring relevance.
—Matthew Price, Boston Globe
 
[A] remarkably alive, ruminative new work… Plato at the Googleplex delivers loads of colorful, fascinating ancient historical context. ...[The book is} fun and at times wickedly funny.”
—John Wilwol, San Francisco Chronicle


“I have not done justice to the richness and detail of this invigorating book. The combination of historical scholarship, lively presentation, vernacular dialogue, and intellectual passion make it a unique achievement. Plato may have died over two thousand years ago, but he lives on, vibrantly, in these piquant pages.
Colin McGinn, Wall Street Journal

"Goldstein is comprehensive in her knowledge of Plato and draws on the most thoughtful traditions of Platonic scholarship in the last decades (scholars such as Gregory Vlastos, Myles Burnyeat, and Debra Nails), and she presents a comprehensive overview of a philosopher whose only serious rival for influence in the secular world is Confucius. She presents Plato at his best and most relevant—the Plato most deserving of our attention."
Slate 

"Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is Goldstein’s crafting of Plato as a three-dimensional figure, speaking softly to his students, clutching the laptop he acquired at the Googleplex and perpetually googling around for knowledge. He emerges as a believable public intellectual and kind of a mensch – a man whose genuine curiosity and openness towards all overshadows any ego or attachment to one particular doctrine. A man more interested in asking questions than accruing power or dispensing answers."
Christian Science Monitor

“Books like Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex are of the rare type that contribute to the popularization of knowledge and create appetite for more. After reading this book you will . . . question your views and knowledge about politics, psychology, science, history, and ethics.”
New York Journal of Books

Plato at the Googleplex is an important and amazing book…It is amazing because the book takes great risks—including the risk of including 21st century dialogues about Plato’s philosophy, and thereby risking comparison with the greatest writer  of philosophical dialogues that ever lived—and succeeds, in part because [Goldstein] keeps the dialogues as lighthearted in tone as they are serious in intent…Goldstein beautifully combines the skills of a distinguished novelist with breathtaking philosophical scholarship.  I repeat, this book is important and amazing.”
 Hilary Putnam, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities Emeritus, Harvard University

Plato lives! Brilliantly re-creating Plato’s philosophic dialogues, Goldstein transports the ancient Greek philosopher to the twenty-first-century headquarters of Google, where his probing voice engages three modern hosts in exploring what knowledge means in an age of computerized crowd sourcing…Though Goldstein’s gifts as a novelist animate these dialogues, her scholarly erudition gives them substance.”      — ★ Booklist (starred)

A witty, inventive, genre-bending work…Goldstein’s philosophical background serves her impressively in this reconsideration of Plato’s work, and her talent as a fiction writer animates her lively cast of characters…[Her] bright, ingenious philosophical romp makes Plato not only relevant to our times, but palpably alive.
— ★ Kirkus (starred)

Plato at the Googleplex is a wonderful book—enjoyably readable, full of stimulating insights and refreshing observations, unintimidatingly erudite, and salted with a gentle wit.  It will reward both readers who are professional philosophers as well as amateurs who are interested in acquiring a deeper understanding of what serious philosophy is all about and why it continues to flourish.” 
—Harry Frankfurt, author of On Bullshit

This could be one of the best ever demonstrations of the value and utility of philosophy. Richly insightful, beautifully written, it is at once introduction, exploration and application, revealing the fascination and significance of philosophical ideas and their relevance to life. Like the Plato who figures largely here, Goldstein has both literary and philosophical gifts of the highest order: the combination is superb.”
—A.C. Grayling, author of The God Argument

“It would have been easy for a lesser author to drop Plato in a number of modern-day situations, cook up some clever dialog, and land on the conclusion that the philosopher is as comfortable at Google headquarters as he was at the acropolis. Instead, MacArthur Fellow Goldstein imagines Plato and his interlocutors as complex characters. She shows that we’ve brought Plato forward with us into the boardroom and the classroom because of our dependence on the Socratic method for arriving at new knowledge and refining old wisdom. Alongside a few more serious essays, we find Plato debating the distinction between information and knowledge with a Google employee, taking a personality test at New York City’s 92nd Street Y, and debating a “hardline” host on cable news. Verdict: Goldstein is a serious scholar, and her careful citations, footnotes, and background research betray this fact. However, anyone with an interest in philosophy, Plato, or his legacy on Western culture will find this book to be an accessible and enjoyable read.
—Robert C. Robinson, Library Journal

“Novelist and philosopher Goldstein 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....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] proves a clear and engaging writer, and though the 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.”
Publishers Weekly

“A MacArthur Fellow and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, Goldstein always delivers something exciting for inquiring minds. Here, she imagines Plato brought to life, hashing out challenges from Fox News on religion and morality, keeping Freudians and tiger moms from coming to blows, and wondering why crowd sourcing trumps experts. C’mon, philosophy is fun, and it sells.”
— Barbara Hoffert’s MY PICK, Library Journal

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