A Review of Teaching Plato in Palestine

By Janessa Dyk

Global Business, Management, and Accounting

Carlos Fraenkel, the author of Teaching Plato in Palestine, proposes that philosophy can be the tool to enable people from all religious and cultural backgrounds to solve conflicts of injustice around the world. Some of these issues involve questioning who is God, how to deal with injustice in income distribution, autonomy in government control, or education just to name a few. Fraenkel illustrates his thesis by giving examples from groups across the world that use philosophy to try and solve these problems:

Israelis and Palestinians gather together at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem to see if philosophy could provide a common ground for people from different religious backgrounds to meet and communicate with one another (p. 7). Philosophy is also utilized in Indonesia as the world’s largest Muslim country to try and find balance as it goes through religious pluralism, modernization, and constructing its national identity (p.31). Hasidic Jews in New York gather to try and see if philosophy can provide the bridge necessary to address real life concerns between religious traditions and current times (p.54). Or take Brazil, where philosophy is taught in high school in an attempt to see things as they really are to heal the injustices between rich and poor. Finally, Mohawkan leaders gather together to see how they can self-govern themselves after being under the control of American and Canadian governments. By doing so, Fraenkel shows that even though people come from different backgrounds culturally and religiously, they can come together through the discussion of philosophy.

While philosophy appears to be a useful tool to help people look at issues in a new way, it can also make people doubt their original beliefs. Hasidic Jews in New York have left their faith after analyzing different philosophical teachers. The new ideas and ways of interrogating thoughts lead this group of Jews to turn their back on their culture's way of life and belief in God. But on the other hand, philosophy appeared to be the tool necessary to bring people from conflicting nations, like Israelis and Palestinians, together to address the issues between them. Therefore, philosophy provides the skills needed to analyze conflicts in a new light, giving people new ways to view solutions to age-old issues like governance, religion, and justice.

I think that Fraenkel does a good job in showing the power of philosophy in providing freedom of thought amidst conflicting environments. By having this freedom of thought, philosophy enables people and countries to have freedom of religion, politics, and economics.  Issues involving religion, politics, and economics are touchy subjects that can be very difficult to discuss. Philosophy gives people the opportunity to learn new ways to process and look at issues in a way that enables discussion. By doing so, people will become more open to dialogue and achieve these crucial liberties instead of being closed off to discussion.

The world faces a plethora of conflicting issues. In this book, Fraenkel provides a succinct argument that philosophy can span the differences found across the world in multiple cultures, backgrounds, and issues. Fraenkel does not go too in depth but instead allows the reader to get a sense of what is going on and how philosophy plays an impact on the situation. Due to this, the audience will appreciate being able to see the big picture without being bogged down in jargon and specific situations. Instead, Teaching Plato in Palestine offers readers a larger sense for the world and how philosophy interacts with it. This enables readers to understand the importance of philosophy and, therefore, might pursue learning additional philosophical thought themselves.