Thursday, July 30, 2015

Philosophy in Action

The Just City
By Jo Walton

In Plato's Republic you'll find a template for a city intended to maximize justice among its inhabitants. If you're already falling asleep, don't worry. You don't have to be a philosophy major to enjoy this book. But author Jo Walton takes Plato's thought experiment and uses it to tell a story. What if the gods of Olympus were real and two of them decided to create a city and fill it with people who desire to follow Plato's guidelines? Would such a city succeed?

After setting the gears into action the goddess Athena and the god Apollo both take the form of children in the city so that they can see the experiment unfold. Their friends and teachers are taken from throughout history, some of them famous and some of them unknown, but all of them striving to do their best. Of course, the definition of what's best is different for mathematicians from the Renaissance and philosophers from the Information Age, so there are some bumps in the road. Then Athena brings Socrates into the city to to see what has been created from Plato's ideas and his own words. He begins asking questions and some cracks begin to appear in the idea-driven foundations of the city. How far are the gods willing to go with their human experiment? And how long will the humans agree to stay within the rules Plato gave?

As I said, this book doesn't require a philosophy degree, but it will definitely get you thinking. Check it out if you've pondered anything recently. Or if you think time-travelling gods might be fun to hang out with.

Review by Danny Hanbery

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