What if you could have your first kiss again, but this time see it through the eyes of Shakespeare? Or learn to ride a bicycle with Einstein? Or take your driving test with Jack Kerouac? In Driving with Plato, former Oxford don Robert Rowland Smith lets history’s greatest minds illuminate our defining moments. Following his highly acclaimed Breakfast with Socrates, which walked through a single day in the company of thinkers from Aristotle to Arendt, he expands the “day in a life” concept to life’s major milestones.
Start with being born. For some, like Sartre, you get off to a bad start: You didn’t ask to be born, and unless you act, life remains meaningless. And yet for Heidegger, if you hadn’t been born, you’d have no sense of your own being, and that would be a tragic loss. How about midlife crisis? When Dante wrote The Divine Comedy, he deliberately set his story midway through life’s journey, and it led to spiritual transformation. As for falling in love, is there always a chance, as suggested by Roland Barthes, that we’re playacting? In a warm, humorous voice that revels both in life’s absurdities and in the pure delight of discovery, Smith grounds abstract ideas in concrete experience. Driving with Plato helps us think more deeply about the key events in our lives even as it provides us with a philosophical education.