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Socrates and Plato - Track 1002

And if you want to study history of West when you come to the philosophy Descartes – cogito ergo sum, we have seen earlier, we have seen the proof of the existence of the soul and of God. 'I think therefore I am'. ‘I think’ this is reason so it is a period of reason, emphasis upon reason. So if read the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Kant again I am giving you a few names they represent the pure reason they are also called rationalists. Rationalist is one who believes that reason is the most important faculty of knowledge that is rationalist. So Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant these are the four great names in the realm of rational philosophy – rationalists. Then there was another group of philosophers they are called Locke and Hume they specialise only in sense knowledge and they believed that the sense knowledge is the most important. Even today we are passing in the West through a period of senses. If you go to the West and speak of reason or intuition they will most probably dismiss you. They will say: you talk of what you can know through the senses that is the speciality of the West today. You tell us what you can see by your eyes don’t talk of intuition, mystic knowledge, it’s all dreamy according to them; no such thing as God being seen in your visions, no voice as Socrates claimed that he used to hear the voices they won’t accept you, if you talk about this. You have to talk only of what you can know through the senses that was the speciality of Locke and Hume. Hume even said: how do you know that when you close the door of your house and go away from it, how do you know the house is still continuing to exist. You can see only with your eyes, who can give you the proof that nobody is seeing the house and you are away from your house and the house still continues to exist, you have no proof that is Hume’s philosophy, entirely you see with your senses then only you believe, otherwise don’t believe. And today we have got a big school of thought in West called ‘Logical Positivism’.

Positivism maintains that we should see only what is positive that is what you can see. The word Positivism refers to experience by your senses, I can be positive about this microphone because it is just here, I can use it, I can speak to it, I can handle it – positive. And according to Logical Positivism only what you experience, only what you can verify in experience only that can be said to be logical, everything else is extra logical, super logical therefore abnominee. So now you have seen the whole history of thought all in one glance right from the beginning to the present day. The present day Logical Positivism is a very powerful dominant thought and India is today very much influenced by Logical Positivism and by many trends of thought which are all based upon sense knowledge. If you go to universities of India today more often than not you’ll find philosophers talking of Logical Positivism and of Locke and Hume. But summing up all this now we have Sri Aurobindo, who recognises all these movements takes the whole sky in his hand as it were and ushers in a new age. The knowledge coming from Supermind the origin of Auroville is Supermind. It is the knowledge given from the supermind that is at the root of the building up of this city that is why it is so easy for us to embrace the whole world thought in a short time, as I am doing very rapidly that is because of the supermind at the back of our inspiration. So now you read again the first paragraph. I’ve given the entire history of thought very briefly in the first paragraph of this article. I read again. Now if you have any questions now after reading it you ask me.

The history of thought may, in a sense, be regarded as an account of the cyclical movement of the modes of knowledge: sensation, perception, reason, intuition and still higher modes of cognition. At different periods one or another of these predominates and asserts its own truth and standards of truth. Thus we have the age of intuition such as that of the Veda and the Upanishad, the age of mixed intuition and reason such as that of the Darshanas in the East and that of Socrates and Plato in the West, the age of Pure Reason as that of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz and Kant, and the age of the senses as that of Locke and Hume and (the present) Logical Positivism.

Right, clear, very easy now, correct, now you can go to the second paragraph.


In this cyclical movement, the age to which Plato belongs was the period when intuitive knowledge was receding into the background and making way for the free play of reason and its allied instruments. The early age of Greece was the age of the Mysteries where there was the supreme reign of occult and intuitive knowledge. When we come to Pythagoras, this supremacy is lost, but still intuition predominates. In Socrates we find a child of the Mystics capable of intuitive knowledge and contacting and following an inner voice, the ‘Daemon’; but his methods of inquiry have already become rational and dialectical and in effect he initiates the rational movement in Western philosophy. Yet in his most important doctrines such as that of ‘Virtue is Knowledge’ he identifies knowledge with the knowledge belonging to spiritual or intuitive consciousness. And in his life we find him being moved and motivated by the high ethical and spiritual sense. But when we come to Plato, we find that the mystic tendency is on the wane, although the setting sun of mysticism casts its gold on the horizon and we find in Plato a most captivating combination of mysticism and reason.

Clear, any question on this paragraph, very easy now to follow, yes? Then we go to the third paragraph. Any question on this second paragraph? Afterwards if you have any question we come back again now we go forward.

Plato inherits the mysticism of the past but moulds it in his rational receptacle. (It is like having in a vessel in which the milk is to be poured, the milk does not come out of the vessel, milk comes out from the higher sources but the receptacle is of metal, the intuitive knowledge of the past is not in the mould of a metal. He puts milk as it were in a metallic vessel that is Plato. You will find in the receptacle lot of mystic knowledge but the vessel itself is metallic is no more intuitive, it is rational. So Plato inherits the mysticism of the past but moulds it in his rational receptacle.) He himself was deeply influenced by Socrates and in his highest heights he understands, touches, nay, communicates with the supreme and most mysterious spiritual reality. (In fact Sri Aurobindo has said that Plato was in contact with the supermind. So you can see the highest level of his thought he brings the supramental rays of light in his philosophy but the mould is rational throughout. Just I have said most captivating, most charming combination of mysticism and reason you find in Plato. Just as in the morning you have got a beautiful gold on the sky, similarly in the evening also you have a most beautiful gold on the sky. So when you see Plato you find there is gold only it's gold of the setting sun not of the rising sun. If you read the Veda you find the same kind of morning, same kind of dawn, gold in the horizon but it is the gold of the rising sun. In case of Plato you see the gold but of the setting sun. He is when the sunlight was about to go down and a new period was about to start – Pure Reason. But still as far as Plato himself is concerned you find both mysticism and rationality together combined together that’s why he also is sometimes called ‘Prince charming of philosophy’, he is the most captivating, the most enchanting philosopher in the history of the world.) But it is through mind that he reaches the summit to capture that reality. Indeed, Plato is essentially the Mind or Thought reflecting and drawing upon the treasures of Intuition. In consequence, he stands out as a thinker presiding over the new dawn of Reason but having at his back the splendour and glory of the waning age of Intuition.

You will verify these propositions when at a certain stage you will read Plato’s own book. you’ll find where is the glory and splendour of intuition and also the tremendous capacity of the reason to manifest that intuitive knowledge both are combined so well that’s why even today most of the philosophers in the world cannot escape the charm and spell of Plato. There’s a very beautiful sentence written by Whitehead. Whitehead belonged to our own age he is a most recent thinker of the world, very great thinker and he has written a sentence ‘The entire history of Western philosophy is nothing but footnotes to Plato’. So what Whitehead says is the whole history of Western philosophy is nothing but Plato, Plato, Plato everywhere but there are a few footnotes. So if you take Plato plus footnotes that is whole of Western philosophy. It is a tremendous tribute to Plato and it is true tribute it's not something wrong, it’s not an exaggeration, it’s a fact. Plato is the one philosopher who is the most influential philosopher in the history of the world. There are only two greatest philosophers, one is Plato another is Aristotle. But between the two Plato is greater because Aristotle himself was a student of Plato. So the influence of Aristotle can be derived from Plato. It is sometimes said that you need to read Plato to admire him but you do not need to understand him, he writes so beautifully, so charmingly. In fact you read already the whole of Socrates when you read Apology, it is written by Plato.

In consequence, he stands out as a thinker presiding over the new dawn of Reason but having at his back the splendour and glory of the waning age of Intuition.

I think I can stop here now.