Plato is the man. There is no greater figure in the history of Western thought and philosophy. While it’s true that Socrates lived and taught one generation prior to Plato, we know most of our information about Socrates through Plato’s eyes and writing.
In Plato at the Googleplex, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein imagines what it would be like if Plato was alive today. The chapters in her book alternate between essays about various elements of Plato’s thought (i.e. the role of virtue, the trilogy of the good, the true, and the beautiful, the meaning of Socrates’ death, etc.), and fictional scenarios where Plato is dropped into the modern world and responds.
In the title chapter, Plato is introduced to the internet. He also spends some time on a conservative radio show, debates parenting styles, challenges a neuroscientist as he prepares to undergo an FMRI, and even writes a relationship advice column.
This book is a fantastically informative and thought provoking read on the life and influence of Plato. Goldstein not only gives you information about Plato, she invites you to think through the ideas that he first thought.
My only nagging concern came from my background in studying Jesus. Just as many theologians end up painting a picture of Jesus that validates their own beliefs, I can’t help but wonder whether Goldstein did the same with Plato. (As Reza Aslan did with Muhammad) She paints him as the champion of secularism—basically an alternative to the religious worldviews that have dominated history until very recently in Western society. While its clear that Plato was a radical thinker, I can’t imagine that all of his references to the pantheon were purely rhetorical devices. I don’t think it’s possible for someone to be so removed from their milieu.
Plato just feels too at home in the 21st Century.
—Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Plato at the Googleplex (New York: Pantheon Books, 2014).