Bioethics Blogs

The devil is real, and we all know him

It is Halloween, the day when the dead walk and the devil rides.

We’re plagued by children who are risking diabetes, if not their immortal souls, by demanding the sort of sweets you only give to kids you hate. The Christians down the road, not realizing, as Luther did, that the devil can’t bear to be mocked, are holding a ‘light party’ in protest against the trick-and- treaters.

And, between door-bell rings and dispensings of deadly substances to skeletons, I’m reflecting on a talk I recently heard by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. It was on her wonderful book, Plato in the Googleplex. In the book, Plato wanders through modern America, watching, talking, bemused, amused, dismayed, misunderstood. It’s an audit of Platonism. How has it weathered?

The talk itself was a dazzling justification of the whole business of philosophy – an empassioned attempt to revive its original meaning: the love of wisdom.

She described how, as a 13 year old in an orthodox Jewish home, she discovered Plato, and had the first of her intellectual ecstasies. She came to him partly, at least, because the Holocaust had taught her that ideas were dangerous. Philosophy, she thought (and Plato in particular), gave her a way of evaluating the dangerousness of ideas.

Socrates, she noted, was killed because he questioned the fundamental premises on which people based their lives. People don’t like that, and they react nastily. The lesson she took away, and that she taught so scintillatingly in Blackwells, was that all people who agree with Plato that their own premises can and should be examined should come to the table and sort out the world.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.