The Festival of Dangerous Ideas and Plato at the Googleplex

Plato and Aristotle

I was excited to hear the Festival of Dangerous Ideas is on this year again. The name alone has an instant charm to it and a definite air of intrigue! And when I saw the lineup of events and guests at this year’s festival, I was even more excited.

Salman Rushdie, for one, will be attending and speaking about the freedom to write. Other panels and events that piqued my interest included Human Existence Doesn’t Matter (And What Is It Anyhow?), How Many Dangerous Ideas Can One Person Have?, Women are Sexual Predators, a panel on whether our advances in science and technology are threatening our existence and Bradley Garrett on embracing the idea of exploring an ‘unsafe’ city and of making our own adventures in a ‘city within a city’ that avoids today’s tendency towards cotton wool safety culture.

The festival is held in Sydney which is why I haven’t been able to attend its previous incarnations. Sadly, I won’t be attending this time either. I did consider taking time off work for a quick trip over east, especially as the festival is being held around my birthday weekend as well. After all, what could be better than spending my 30th birthday in Sydney at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, then going out for a drink in the city after? Unfortunately, J vetoed the idea because he has a mix of  major work and university commitments around the same time and wouldn’t be able to get away and I didn’t know anyone else who would be interested in attending with me. While I normally wouldn’t have any hesitation in taking a quick trip on my own, especially to attend such a cool event like FODI, I didn’t relish the idea of spending my 30th birthday alone in a city where I hardly knew anyone else once the events for the day were over.

So I’ve sadly had to put my dream of attending FODI aside for yet another year, but hopefully the festival will continue next year and if so, I’m definitely making plans to attend!

Now, though I won’t be going to FODI this year, it hasn’t stopped me from continuing to check out the guests and subjects that will be discussed and maybe creating my own personal little FODI here. Just looking at the program has introduced me to a new writer and philosopher I have never heard of – Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.

Goldstein was to preside over an event called Philosophers are More Important than Scientists, an event which, as I’m looking on the FODI site right now, has already sold out. Right away, I was intrigued by the subject matter as well as the mini autobiography of Goldstein herself and I clicked onto her website to find out more. Have you seen her curriculum vitae alone? It is astounding! Among her awards include Humanist of the Year and Freethought Heroine, she’s been a Radcliffe Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow, she’s been a Humanist Laureate for the International Academy of Humanism and received Honours in Fiction at the Massachusetts Book Awards… the list goes on and on. My first thought was, ‘why have I never heard of her before?’ My second thought was, ‘Books! She’s written books!’

I was interested in Goldstein’s list of books, many of which are fiction novels that weave themes of philosophy and religion within their story lines. Just looking at the title of her latest book, Plato at the Googleplex, sold me and I’ve now added Goldstein’s books to my To be Read list. The first one I plan to tackle? Plato at the Googleplex, of course.


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