Plato at the Googleplex: Book summary and reviews of Plato at the Googleplex by Rebecca Goldstein

Plato at the Googleplex

Why Philosophy Won't Go Away

By Rebecca Goldstein

Plato at the Googleplex
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2014,
    480 pages.

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Book Summary

Is philosophy obsolete? Are the ancient questions still relevant in the age of cosmology and neuroscience, not to mention crowd-sourcing and cable news? The acclaimed philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein provides a dazzlingly original plunge into the drama of philosophy, revealing its hidden role in today's debates on religion, morality, politics, and science.

At the origin of Western philosophy stands Plato, who got about as much wrong as one would expect from a thinker who lived 2,400 years ago. But Plato's role in shaping philosophy was pivotal. On her way to considering the place of philosophy in our ongoing intellectual life, Goldstein tells a new story of its origin, re-envisioning the extraordinary culture that produced the man who produced philosophy.
 
But it is primarily the fate of philosophy that concerns her. Is the discipline no more than a way of biding our time until the scientists arrive on the scene? Have they already arrived? Does philosophy itself ever make progress? And if it does, why is so ancient a figure as Plato of any continuing relevance? Plato at the Googleplex is Goldstein's startling investigation of these conundra. She interweaves her narrative with Plato's own choice for bringing ideas to life - the dialogue.
 
Imagine that Plato came to life in the twenty-first century and embarked on a multicity speaking tour. How would he handle the host of a cable news program who denies 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? What would Plato make of Google, and of the idea that knowledge can be crowd-sourced rather than reasoned out by experts? With a philosopher's depth and a novelist's imagination and wit, Goldstein probes the deepest issues confronting us by allowing us to eavesdrop on Plato as he takes on the modern world.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A witty, inventive, genre-bending work... [Her] bright, ingenious philosophical romp makes Plato not only relevant to our times, but palpably alive." - Kirkus

"[O]verall, this is both an enjoyable and a serious way to (re)learn Plato's ideas." - Publishers Weekly

"A MacArthur Fellow ...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." - Library Journal

"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

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Author Information

Rebecca Goldstein Author Biography

Photo: Stephen Pinker

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein grew up in White Plains, New York, and graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, receiving the Montague Prize for Excellence in Philosophy and immediately went on to graduate work at Princeton University, receiving her Ph.D. in Philosophy. While in graduate school, she was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship and a Whiting Foundation Fellowship.

After earning her Ph.D. she returned to her alma mater, where she taught courses in Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Psychology, the rationalists, the empiricists, and the ancient Greeks. It was some time during her tenure at Barnard that, quite to her own surprise, she used a summer vacation to write her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem. The Mind-Body Problem was published ...

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