Plato at the Googleplex

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


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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. (With black-and-white photographs throughout.)

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  • Hardback | 459 pages
  • 160 x 236 x 38mm | 799.99g
  • 03 Apr 2014
  • Random House USA Inc
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0307378195
  • 9780307378194
  • 109,728

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Author Information

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein received her doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University. Her award-winning books include the novels "The Mind-Body Problem, ""Properties of Light, "and "36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction" and nonfiction studies of Kurt GOdel and Baruch Spinoza. She has received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, has been designated a Humanist of the Year and a Freethought Heroine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Massachusetts.

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Review quote

"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 Reviews" (starred review) "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, evident in the many citations from Plato's writings seamlessly embedded in the conversational give-and-take. Goldstein's scholarship also informs the expository essay that prefaces each dialogue." --Bryce Christensen, "Booklist "(starred review) ""Plato at the Googleplex" is an important and amazing book. It is important for two reasons: because philosophy is important, and Rebecca Goldstein does a wonderful job of explaining why, and because Plato's genius remains inspiring, and she also does a wonderful job of explaining why, without losing sight of the fact that Plato lived and thought in a very different time, or losing sight of the fact that he was the beginning, not the end, of philosophy. 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 she keeps the dialogues as light hearted in tone as they are serious in intent. As she did in "Betraying Spinoza," Goldstein beautifully combines the skills of a distinguished novelist with breathtaking philosophical scholarship. I repeat, this

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