I happened to dig down through the stack and found Rebecca Goldstein's Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away.
Not that I, personally, was all that worried that Philosophy was going to go away.
But this is, obviously, a book for people who are interested in Philosophy, of whom there are two sorts:
- People who pursue, or who have pursued, Philosophy as an academic discipline.
- People who have a casual interest in Philosophy, and who were assigned, say, parts of The Republic during high school, or who took "Great Western Philosophers" as an elective in college
Myself, I'm more in the latter category.
Anyway, Goldstein is attempting to write for both audiences, which is rather a challenge.
The way she handles this is to, more-or-less, alternate the chapters in her book between audience one and audience two.
For audience one, there are chapters dense with an assessment of current academic views on Philosophy in general, and on how Plato's thinking is currently received, in particular.
There are lots of footnotes in those chapters.
And passages like
In the Thaetetus, Plato moves (though somewhat jerkily) toward the definition of knowledge as "true belief with a logos," an account. This is a first approximation to a definition that philosophers would eventually give: knowledge is justified true belief. The same true proposition that is merely believed by one person can be genuinely known by another, and the difference lies in the reasons the believer has for believing. The reasons have to be good ones, providing justification for his belief, making it a rational belief. These are all evaluative notions. The definition of knowledge forces a further question: what counts as good reasons? All of these are questions that make up the field of epistemology, and they are questions Plato raised.
Which, if you're in audience one, is probably just what you were looking for!
In the other chapters, aimed more at audience two I guess, Goldstein tries a different approach, in which she imagines that Plato were somehow magically alive today, 2,500 years later, wandering around in his toga, carrying a laptop computer, and interacting with various people.
The title of the book comes from one of these chapters, in which Goldstein describes Plato's visit to the headquarters campus of Google (the "Googleplex"), where Plato is to give a speech for an audience of Google employees.
Other such chapters imagine Plato appearing on a cable talk show segment, Plato in a town hall forum at the 92nd Street YMCA in Manhattan, Plato assisting with the answers on the Ask Margo website, and Plato participating in a MRI brain-scanning experiment.
It's a clever idea, but terribly hard to pull off; Goldstein does better than I anticipated, and surely much better than I would have done myself.
But it's still pretty contrived.
I guess the bottom line is that it's an interesting book.
If you are interested in Plato, that is.