Delight Springs

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Plato's tour

We're back today in CoPhi with Goldstein's Plato, on book tour in Mountain View. "One preposterous premise" is all it takes to get us there, in our literary time-and-space ship of the imagination.

Some readers love the artifice, some hate it. As an old fan of Steve Allen's "Meeting of Minds" (which hosted the likes of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Paine, Francis Bacon, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, Karl Marx,Charles Darwin...) I think it's both fun and instructive, a charming invention of fictive ingenuity that takes to heart the conception of philosophy as humankind's reflective conversation across the years.

Plato (but shouldn't he be Socrates, if Goldstein's miming Plato's text?) seems to love it here, at the Googleplex and in our century. He exudes passionate curiosity, courtly courtesy, and a compulsion to "understand our tools" and distinguish information from knowledge and wisdom. His mathematical bent for "formal exactitude" finds itself right at home among the engineers and programmers.

He's more inter-personally democratic than we might have expected the author of Republic to be, giving equal deference and respect to everyone he encounters. His unimpressed media escort Cheryl, standing in for Glaucon, is unaware of Plato's notoriety. She's offended by the Platonic notion that anyone could ever gain expertise and authority in the business of telling others how to live. Marcus the engineer (Adeimantus?) seems eager to take on the famed philosopher, who responds with delighted dialectical enthusiasm. He professes Socrates' preference for face-to-face conversation over static writing. The life in Goldstein's text stands as an unspoken rebuke to this attitude.

The Googlers can't believe Plato's never googled. How telling, that his first "search" is of his old familiar mentor, rather than something new. His utopian republic is as conservative and tradition-bound as can be.

A nice peripatetic moment: "...we simply have to start walking. You can ask your question while you walk, can't you? Of course, he said. In fact, I highly recommend walking while thinking." 

Me too, let's get out there. The grounds of our Academy are also lined with pathways, and "I always encourage ambulatory cerebration" too.
"Go Cubs go!"

6 am/7:13, 63/85/59, 5:48

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