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

Plato! Google! What a combination!

Philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein imagines what would happen if Plato were somehow still alive and were visiting Google, being interviewed on talk shows, etc. This premise, of course, requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but go with it. Accept the premise and work with it.

This “novel” — titled Plato at the Googleplex and subtitled Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away — certainly breaks the mold of what a novel is. Wikipedia, in fact, lists it as “nonfiction,” a slightly odd category for a story that has Plato visiting Google. Mixing fiction with philosophy is not surprising for Goldstein, since it’s far from her first novel to do so. (See The Mind-Body Problem, Properties of Light, and Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God.) As you know, “all philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato” (according to Alfred North Whitehead), so it’s also not surprising that Plato would serve as the vehicle for exploring philosophical concepts even in a technological age. Goldstein has him visiting Google, as the title suggests, and appearing on FOX, and debating with a tiger mom. He’s the hook on which hangs a set of explorations that would run the risk of being dull without this strange conceit. Philosophical questions are alive today, as Goldstein shows. (“Φιλοσοφíα βιοù κυβερνήτης,” as the famous Greek saying puts it. “Philosophy is the helmsman of life.” It’s famous because its initials are Phi Beta Kappa.)

Chapters alternate between story line and philosophical explanations. It’s fun and informative. (I particularly liked the interactions with the tiger mom and a liberal psychologist.) Read it!

Categories: Books