Books, says James Gleick in Time Travel: A History, are time machines. They transport us, carry us across the cosmos, bring long-gone authors and their thoughts to us, enable conversation across the aeons.
That’s how we want to think about Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex, which we took out for a test drive back in August. We’ll fire it up again this week, reanimating and reimagining the old Greek as a time traveler. Goldstein might just as easily have written us back into his day, but this way we get the benefit of an imaginative critique of our time, our zeitgeist, from his perspective. In either direction, the trip is powered by imagination and “one preposterous premise.”
So here he is at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California… on a panel of child-rearing experts in Manhattan… revealing the shallowness of our notion of ‘Platonic love’… on cable news… in a cognitive neuroscience laboratory…
It’s really a terrific premise, and possibly the best imaginable approach to the pan-temporal conversation of humankind that is philosophy at its best. It’s a thought experiment to rival Plato’s cave, a glimpse of the intellectual forest that’s grown up from seeds planted two millennia ago in Greece. Wouldn’t it be fun to bring all the old philosophers to Mountain View? But of course that’s just what we do, when we open their books while we’re still writing ours.
6 am/7:11, 62/85/60, 5:50
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