You Don’t Get Apologia Like You Used To

“The best dialogue in Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away is the titular first one, which, like Plato’s own writings is being related after the fact, for the benefit of a new audience. Cheryl, Plato’s media escort for his speaking engagement at Google, is explaining her challenging afternoon to a friend over drinks. As she reenacts the dialogue, Cheryl is still unsettled by the questions that Plato and his interlocutors raised, and has managed to get a little of that uncertainty to blossom in her friend.

Cheryl finds herself unsettled by philosophy. Not knowing how to make the correct moral choice is a different kind of ignorance than not knowing how to write computer code. Cheryl finds she can live comfortably with the latter, but not the former. It is of little use to tell Cheryl that she’s merely participating in philosophy, which is still only an instrumental good. Even worse to tell Cheryl that she’s a partner in the process of inquiry, since her questions helped Plato clarify his thought (he picks up some turns of phrase from her to use in subsequent dialogues). She needs personal, immediate knowledge of Agathon—the form of the good—in order to live out the parts of her life that make her most human.

But Goldstein never gets around to introducing her characters to Augustine, who might have recognized Cheryl’s longing. In fact, although Goldstein mentions in the her introduction that she wanted to give Plato a chance to learn from and recognize the value of modern thought, most of Plato’s interlocutors exist more to draw Plato out than to offer anything of value in return.”

Read more at First Things