In the most recent Atlantic, Clancy Martin reviews Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away and discusses the resurgence of popular philosophy, something that has a pedigree going back to antiquity (Seneca is a personal favorite).
But Goldstein wisely doesn’t take philosophy’s revival for granted in a culture committed to an increasingly materialistic worldview—materialistic in the philosophical sense, meaning convinced that the scientific study of matter in motion holds the answers to all our questions. The impetus for Goldstein’s ingenious, entertaining, and challenging new book is the theoretical version of the very practical problem I confronted when I graduated from college: Now that we have science, do we really need philosophy? Doesn’t science “bake bread” (not to mention make money) in a way that philosophy never has? Science is responsible for the grand upward march of civilization—so we are often told—but what accomplishments can philosophy claim?