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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,192 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
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 scien ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2014)
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Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone even vaguely interested in Plato
Recommended to Manny by: notgettingenough's mother
Plato on Goodreads

MANNY: Plato, welcome to Goodreads. I can't tell you what an honor--

PLATO: No, no, please, I find this fascinating. What a wonderful agora you have created for philosophical discussions! I have been exploring it all day...

MANNY: You have?

PLATO: I will come back again. I am still not accustomed to the extraordinary profusion of books that your time has produced. The site is quite helpful in locating the more interesting ones.

MANNY: Well, that's, ah, that's very nice to hear. But
Robin Friedman
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Philosophy is the love of wisdom. In her new book, "Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away" (2014) Rebecca Goldstein examines the continuous nature of philosophical questioning through a partly expository partly fictional presentation of the thought of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. The twentieth century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead observed that all Western philosophy basically constitutes a series of "footnotes to Plato".

Rebecca Goldstein serves as both author and g
Jan Rice
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jan by: Dennis
Plato was born in 428 or 427 BCE and died in 348 or 347 BCE at about 81, and, to Rebecca Goldstein's credit, he comes back to life in this book.

So do his times. The Greek city-states (poleis), and especially Athens, reached their peak after winning the Persian Wars. The way the author portrays the situation, they then no longer had to look back at an age of Homeric giants before the dark centuries. Instead, they--most particularly, the Athenians--saw themselves as giants and set out to express
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I finally went with a 2-star rating for this book. I will note that Goldstein did stimulate my thought at times, albeit half the time to take notes on how she was wrong, and did get me to modify somewhat the harsh take I’ve had on Socrates since reading Izzy Stone, but, the book is still not that good.

First, a couple of overarching issues.

I am discomfited by a professional philosopher diving into the tank of commercial toutery. Plato can’t just have a laptop, he has to have a Chromebook. He can’
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Plato’s back!

Reading Plato was by far my favorite part of studying philosophy in college, and it was sheer delight to encounter him again in this book. Author Rebecca Goldstein, both a philosophy professor and a novelist, poses an interesting question: Now that the sciences have advanced so far in explaining the inner and outer worlds of our universe--from the subatomic level to the farthest galaxies, and from the genetic codes for life to the structures of the brain that support thought, emotio
Peter Mcloughlin
I always imagined what an intellectual hero from the past would think of our modern world. I have wondered what Tom Paine, Bertrand Russell or George Orwell would think of us living today. The author has taken this historical fantasy and applied it to Plato. The author takes the father of philosophy and has him sitting in the Googleplex cafeteria with some of the smart people there to discuss what the good is and the best kind of society. He has Plato on a panel on education and childrearing at ...more
Kyle Muntz
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a nice survey of Plato--a philosopher I've always really admired and still think about a lot, though I'm not sure I agree with a single one of his main points. Unfortunately, there's not as much new material here as I'd hoped; and I'm not sure I was convinced of Goldstein's main argument about the usefulness of philosophy in the age of science. (The part of me that almost majored in philosophy years ago was hoping sort of blindly to be convinced.) But Goldstein has achieved something nic ...more
Troy Blackford
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book. I am very unfamiliar with the topic of philosophy, and approached this book in a mindset where I felt the need to be convinced of the relevancy of the topic. While a lot of the discussion did seem to be beyond me at times, I definitely feel better for having read this. Most of the book is framed as a fictional dialogs between Plato and modern day folks ranging from his book tour publicity agent to a neuroscientist, though my favorite was probably his TV intervie ...more
Fred Forbes
Feb 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Some background. I had to take a philosophy course in college and for the final exam my paper was along the lines of the futility of studying the topic at all - like the old Bill Cosby comedy piece "Why is there air?" The paper came back with a big C- and a note that others took the same topic and did a much better job with it. But, somehow, this book caught my eye - probably the thought of Plato visiting the Googleplex, participating in a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y, Plato on Cable Ne ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Typical Goldstein fare: intelligent, playful, entertaining, wise. Argues convincingly for the relevance of ancient Greek philosophy in our time, and effectively dismantles the oft-cited claim (pace Whitehead) that all of philosophy post Plato is merely a gloss on Plato. A terrific read.
Bob Nichols
Dec 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
At the start of this long book the author states that Plato is elusive. He holds himself "aloof," she says. She warns us that "It is almost as naive to reduce the dialogic Socrates to a mere sock puppet for the philosopher Plato as it is to reduce Plato to a mere notetaker for the philosopher Socrates. Plato floats fugitive between these two reductions." This does not stop Goldstein, however, from telling us what Plato - in her words, "My Plato" - is saying.

Plato, her argument runs, is all about
Alan Johnson
I have given this interesting book a five-star rating, because it is an excellent introduction to Plato, philosophy generally, and ancient Greek history. In explaining Plato's historical context, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein consciously—and I think successfully—attempts to find a golden mean between historicism (assuming that a writer's thought is merely a product of his/her time) and what she calls "philosophical insularity" (pp. 161-62). One might add that a golden mean also exists between hist ...more
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Philosophy students of ALL levels, Positivists
So I'm reading this article, also written by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, on The Chronicle of Higher Education's website, and I'm wishing Goldstein had spoken more of—actually, I wish she had at least mentioned—Henri Bergson & Wilfrid Sellars in the course of her book Plato at the Googleplex (and as another commenter on the site mentions, I, too, feel that Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is overly critical of Leon Wieseltier. After I read his piece when it first published in, I believe, The New ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Goldstein can sometimes be a bit long-winded, but I love the schtick of having Plato visit 21st century America. Recommended for any fan of Plato and/or philosophy.

(See also my blog review:

The book alternates between traditional non-fiction chapters and playful fictional chapters. The non-fiction chapters deal with Plato (of course), but also a surprising amount of his historical context as well as Goldstein's defense of philosophy and an intriguing noti
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Because there had been such a man as Socrates, Plato could convince himself that human life was worth caring about. But I suspect that for him it did take convincing.”

I heard about this book when it first came out and probably said something like, “Oh Pinker's wife wrote a book about Plato in the 21st century? Bah humbug!” I had read The Blank Slate in undergrad which was a less-than-inspiring read. And since, as was recently revealed to me by my mother, that I need to put on my tombstone the w
Ross Blocher
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wish I could say I enjoyed this, as there is a lot to like. Unfortunately, the negatives far outweighed the positives for me. Rebecca Goldstein is hoping to make Plato compelling and relevant to the modern reader by adding him to current, topical conversations. That's the premise, anyhow. She starts out defensively, with a summary of arguments from philosophy's detractors (she calls them "philosophy-jeerers", a term that gets old very quickly). To her credit, Goldstein makes their case well, a ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it liked it
The concept for the book was to show Plato engaged in a dialog with various people and in modern settings, an idea that appealed to me immediately. The structure was to alternate between expository sections where the subject for the dialog is presented directly from Plato's writings and set pieces where the current-day dialogs occur.

There are five such venues: the Googleplex; a panel discussion on raising, or not, exceptional children; a cable talk show; acting as a consultant to an advice colum
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not for everyone, but it is for me. Specifically it is for the me I am right now. I recently (two years ago) read Plato’s dialogues so they are relatively fresh in my mind and ‘Plato at the Googleplex’ helped me to process my thinking around many of these ideas. The author very cleverly introduced Plato’s writings in chapters that were relatively easy to follow, providing contexts and background to many of his works. She then placed ‘Plato’ into contemporary situations, engaging in ...more
Richard Weaver
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I understand why she wrote this book as she did. Contemporary updates to philosophical ideas-that’s a great idea. My problem is in some of her assertions. I feel she lets her own personal opinions mold the philosopher and the philosophies. So, not what is Plato trying to say, but what I think Plato should be saying. And when I read Plato, I don’t come to the same conclusions her. Maybe I’m just coming to the same cognitive bias she is. Or she’s wrong and I’m right. The second one sounds really g ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it liked it
There are, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein explains, many Platos, and in Plato at the Googleplex, she offers her Plato.

“My Plato,” she writes, “is an impassioned mathematician, a wary poet, an exacting ethicist, a reluctant political theorist. He is, above all, a man keenly aware of the way that assumptions and biases slip into our viewpoints and go unnoticed, and he devised a field devoted to trying to expose these assumptions and biases and to do away with any that conflict with commitments we mu
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Can be very dry in the dry sections, but Goldstein does a very good job (as far as i know) putting Plato into interesting modern conversations/dialogues. Good historical overview and also an excellent bit of reasoning as to why philosophy still matters.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful look at philosophy, history, and life through the eyes and works of Plato with relevancy for today, walking through critiques, and giving us tools to live.
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it
There is no doubt that Rebecca Goldstein is a talented and brilliant writer who knows how to provide historical context and insights into Plato and Socrates. Moreover, her Socratic dialogues are stimulating, interesting, and entertaining. The concept of Plato appearing in the 21st century is an interesting one and Goldstein does good job with rendering it into a series of believable and enjoyable dialogues. Additionally, she succeeds in making Plato an interesting character faithfully close to t ...more
Joshua Stein
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Goldstein is a marvelous writer, and it shows throughout the book. The ability to move back and forth between fiction (mostly dialogue, because of the Platonic overtures) and rich description of the history of philosophy is impressive. For philosophical introduction, it's one of the most thoughtful and engagingly organized pieces of writing I've read.

Unfortunately, while the book does some illustration of the conclusions, it doesn't do so as forcefully as it might have. Though she touches on the
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book takes a straightforward premise - what if Plato could come to our time and participate in certain activities that are part of our contemporary popular culture? How would he do? What type of interactions would result? To this end, the book provides a series of dialogues ranging from a book tour visit to Google's corporate headquarters to a discussion of parenting approaches at the 92nd Street Y in New York City to a popular advice column to an appearance on Fox News. These chapters are ...more
Brett Maiden
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Goldstein time-machines Plato into the modern world, where he engages in philosophical discussions on contemporary issues like politics, child rearing, dating, and neuroscience. The chapters alternate between historical-philosophical treatments of Plato's life, teachings, and social context on the one hand, and hypothetical scenarios wherein Plato interacts with a range of modern interlocutors on the other.

Not only does Goldstein showcase her philosophical smarts and a vast amount of research, s
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well, this book has generated some of the longest and most erudite reviews I've read on Goodreads, and I can see why. In spite of its "pick me up and buy me" title, it's not a quick, hilarious romp through the wonderful world of philosophy. It is, as far as I can tell, a brilliant and largely original analysis of Plato's thought, vividly putting it in the context of Athenian history, and never failing to emphasize why it remains important. The process is at times very difficult. The issues aren' ...more
James Klagge
I like Goldstein's writing, and I am a huge fan of Plato, and I like the idea of seeing what Plato might say about the modern world. Consequently I had high expectations for the book. It didn't fully live up to them. Not all the chapters are Plato's take on the modern world, only half of them are: Google, child-rearing, advice columns, cable news, and neuroscience. Those are ok to pretty good. The other 5 chapters are really Goldstein's take on Plato. It is not really a scholar's account, but a ...more
Richard Subber
Dec 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
I didn't have to read the whole book to understand that this isn't the book for me at this time.
If you wish, you can image (as Rebecca Goldstein has done) that Plato has come to life and is wandering around Google headquarters talking philosophy and such. That's not on my radar. You'll have to take a look at Plato at the Googleplex and make your own judgment.
Here's a worthwhile takeaway from her Prologue: Plato, Socrates and the other Greek luminaries had no active conception of what we think of
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Maybe like a 3.75, only because it wasn't always fun to read. What it did, though, was inspire thought- always a good thing, in my book. I'd rather focus on the concepts raised in my reading this book than critique it from my own personal perspective. A major thread throughout was that we come closer to real knowledge through discourse with those who disagree with us. In that spirit, looking forward to the book club discussion!
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Goodreads Librari...: Consolidate editions 3 15 Jul 10, 2014 07:42PM  
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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 e
“If we don't understand our tools, then there is a danger we will become the tool of our tools. We think of ourselves as Google's customers, but really we're its products.” 13 likes
“Children, who have so much to learn in so short a time, had involved the tendency to trust adults to instruct them in the collective knowledge of our species, and this trust confers survival value. But it also makes children vulnerable to being tricked and adults who exploit this vulnerability should be deeply ashamed.” 6 likes
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