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Plato's Journey in the Modern Technological World: a review essay
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2014-05-26 09:12:11
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Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Plato at the Googleplex:Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Pantheon (March 2014), 480 pages.

Alfred Whitehead, a great modern philosopher, considered Plato’s speculation not only the foundation of Western philosophy, but also crucial to the proper understanding of its canon, to the point of proclaiming  the whole of Western philosophy nothing but a footnote to Plato’s philosophical dialogues and his Laws  and his The Republic.  


From Raphael’s School of Athens

I am in the process of reading an intriguing book which largely confirms this view, as preposterous as it may sound initially. I’d like to share it with the Ovi readership. What proves intriguing about the book is that it reads as a novel. It is in fact written by a woman who happens to be both a novelist and a philosopher, a rather rare phenomenon nowadays. She is able to combine the skills of a novelist with a brilliant philosophical scholarship. She accomplished that feat in a previous book titled Betraying Spinoza. She is also able to be erudite and scholarly without being intimidating. The serious reader will acquire from her a deeper understanding of what serious philosophy is all about.


The book deals with the enduring relevancy of philosophy in the era of the computer, the internet, deterministic brain science, mindless technology, progress for its own sake. It is titled: Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, and is authored by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.

To imagine Plato arguing with a neuroscientist certain he can resolve all intellectual questions with brain scans.is to get a hint about the abiding importance of an enterprise such as philosophy, as being too important to our existential concerns to be left to mere specialists who deal with perfection of means and miss the goal of life. We soon realize that the philosophical project that Plato launched 2,500 years ago has evolved as modern thinkers such as Vico, Croce, Kant, Leibnitz, Spinoza, Whitehead and Heidegger have redefined its focus and methods.

Plato is further imagined in this book making the rounds visiting Silicon Valley and Fox News among other places, answering the challenging question on how to raise the perfect child, which was also a crucial question in Athens 24 centuries ago, trying out the internet while insisting and commenting on the still needed interfacing of philosophy with science, especially when it comes to the exploration of free will and the meaning of human life and humankind’s destiny and how responsible each of us remains in its existential choices. In that sense, this journey of the great philosopher in the intricacies of the modern era, leads to the conclusion that not only is philosophy not obsolete, it is more necessary than ever, it is in fact a sine qua non for science, for indeed science cannot even begin, much less thrive, unless there is an a priori faith in the ability of the human mind and of human reason to reach the truth, as difficult as that may prove to be. A fascinating book indeed, relevant  to our modern existential concerns.


Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (2014)
By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein


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