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Socrates and Plato - Track 1103

I asked the question as to what is dialectical reasoning. And I asked you an example of this reasoning to be found in The Life Divine and Anandmayi found out an example in the second paragraph of The Life Divine, so I had said that I shall read this second paragraph and once more we shall do this exercise in what sense is it dialectic reasoning. So if you open the chapter number I, paragraph number two “These persistent ideals of the race are at once the contradiction of its normal experience and the affirmation of higher and deeper experiences which are abnormal to humanity and only to be attained, in their organised entirety, by a revolutionary individual effort or an evolutionary general progression.”

Anandmayi said that this is an example of the dialectical reasoning and I have defined dialectical reasoning as follows: It’s a process of reasoning in which one set of ideas is set against another set of ideas for comparison so that the implications of the first set and the implications of the second set are contrasted so as to arise at a third set of ideas either way of synthesis or way of completion of the entire chain of reasoning or else for continuation  of a similar chain which can go on and on and on. This is the nature of dialectical reasoning. So to repeat it’s a chain of reasoning in which one set of ideas is set against another set of ideas so that the implications of the first set and the implications are compared with the implications the second set of ideas in order to arrive at a third set of ideas which is a synthesis or a completion or which is a further chain of similar reasoning which can go on and on and on. In other words there is no dialectical reasoning if there is no comparison; it’s the essence of the matter. In every dialectical reasoning there is a comparison. One set of ideas to be compared with another set of ideas, you compare and contrast and when you do this something happens and there is a generation of a third set of ideas. Now this third set of ideas is either a synthesis or a completion of the chain of reasoning or it may be a starting point of another chain of similar reasoning. Very often it is said dialectical movement is a presentation of a thesis and antithesis resulting in a synthesis where you stop or it itself becomes a beginning of another series of thesis antithesis and synthesis; thesis, antithesis, synthesis and on and on and on  this is the process of a dialectical reasoning. And Anandmayi rightly pointed out that this particular statement which we read out just now is a good example of dialectical reasoning.

Now let us see how it is so. There must be two sets of ideas otherwise there is no dialectical reasoning, one set of ideas set against another set of ideas. Now let us see what is the first set of ideas, anybody can tell me the first set of ideas, one set of ideas to be compared with another set of ideas, you compare and contrast and when you do this something happens and there is a generation of a third set of ideas. Now this third set of ideas is either a synthesis or a completion of the chain of reasoning or it may be a starting point of another chain of similar reasoning where very often it is said that dialectical movement is a presentation of a thesis and antithesis resulting in a synthesis where you stop or itself becomes a beginning of another series of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, thesis, antithesis, synthesis and on and on – this is the process of a dialectical reasoning. And Anandmayi rightly pointed out that this particular statement which we read out just now is a good example of dialectical reasoning. And Anandmayi rightly pointed out that this particular statement which we read out just now is a good example of dialectical reasoning.

Now let us see how it is so. There must be two sets of ideas otherwise there is no dialectical reasoning, one set of ideas set against another set of ideas. Now let us see what is the first set of ideas, there is first a set of ideas appropriate to normal experience and then the set of ideas appropriate to higher experience, there is contrast between the two. What is the normal experience and what is the higher experience? The implications of the normal experience and the implications of the higher experience and the two are contradicted that is what Sri Aurobindo says: “These persistent ideals (Now these ideals are already referred to in the first paragraph namely God, Light, Freedom, Immortality) These persistent ideals of the race are at once the contradiction of its normal experience and the affirmation of higher and deeper experiences (this is the contrast. Now this is actually the beginning of the dialectical reasoning. Now if you read the whole paragraph you will find a complete chain of reasoning. You take normal experience and abnormal experience, higher experience, the implications of normal experiences are that the material world as we see it and the way in which we see it is all that is there that is normal experience. The higher experience gives you the ideas of God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. Now the two are in contrast. Now the argument starts: If the normal experience is the only experience then the ideas of God, Light, Freedom and Immortality are contradicted and therefore they are invalid. Normal experience if it is the only limit and nothing else is available then these ideas being contradictory of normal experience they are invalid, therefore Sri Aurobindo says: To the ordinary material intellect (in the same paragraph if you see towards the middle of the paragraph you will find the sentence) To the ordinary material intellect (you’ve found that sentence) To the ordinary material intellect which takes its present organisation of consciousness for the limit of its possibilities, the direct contradiction of the unrealised ideals with the realised fact is a final argument against their validity.” So since these ideals are contradicted by our normal experience therefore normal experience says these ideals are invalid, it’s the second step of the argument, first is the contrast then the argument now comes the stage of synthesis. You have now two propositions before you, therefore Sri Aurobindo says: “But if we take a more deliberate view of the world’s workings, that direct opposition appears rather as part of Nature’s profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction.” When there is a contradiction you now make an argument, you take a deliberate view that is to say as I told you the quintessential metaphysical argument. The quintessential metaphysical argument is an argument which seeks the meaning, ultimate justification. So the argument is – why should there be this contradiction at all, what is the meaning of this contradiction? so when you raise this question what is the meaning of this contradiction then Sri Aurobindo says you will find that this contradiction is only a method of nature to arrive at a greater affirmation, to arrive at a synthesis. The method of nature is to create two sets which are contradictory of each other and then to move forward towards the synthesis therefore the very fact that there is a contradiction it does not mean therefore that one is valid and the other is invalid. Farthest standpoint is ultimately these contradictions will be bridged, would be synthesised, you arrive at a synthesis. So this whole paragraph is a good example of a dialectical reasoning, right we have done it earlier it is good to revise from time to time because it will give a good exercise in metaphysical thinking.

Now we go back to Plato. We referred yesterday to the great pronouncement of Plato: Philosophers should be kings, or the kings should become philosophers, and secondly those who are only philosophers or those who are only kings they should become prepared to stay aside; only if you obtain this position Plato says you should be able to evolve the light of day. Now this was his conviction, Plato’s conviction. This conviction was not merely intellectual he made a few attempts to realise the ideal of his vision, he was dynamic enough to realise his ideal as a result he undertook two journeys to Sicily. He went to Syracuse in Sicily which was ruled by Dionysus the II. There was a king Dionysus II. So he made a journey to Sicily and employed himself in the task of training Dionysus the II in order to make this king a philosopher so he applied his own philosophy in action. In the first journey he had to undergo such humiliation, it was a failure actually. Dionysus the II first of all invited him, he was respected, honoured and ultimately he was thrown out, Plato was thrown out and the condition came to such a pass that he was sold in the market as a slave. You can see the condition of the man that he was ready to undergo such a humiliation, he need not have gone at all but his conviction was so great that  if he could make one king a philosopher a new movement could start. So he went to Sicily actually there was one advisor of Syracuse, a king who was known to Plato so he persuaded Syracuse the king to invite Plato. So Plato went there with the hope that he can make him a philosopher so he started the training. It was very interesting story, one day you read the story of his training Dionysus the II. But ultimately the king was not converted to the philosophies, he was actually humiliated and sent out and ultimately he was sold in the market as a slave and he escaped death by being ransomed by someone. Somebody passed by who knew Plato and he bought him and he was ransomed otherwise he would have been killed. If he had not in his heart the great consideration for the future of human progress he would have declined the second invitation of Dionysus, afterwards Dionysus relented and he felt greatly prick of his conscience and he said and he invited him again and Plato would have said: no, one experience is enough but his own conviction was so great that he went the second time also. Of course he failed in his attempt, again second time also he failed again but his vision of the ideal state remained up to this day an inspiration to many thinkers, visionaries, statesman and servants of mankind. Even today many people still believe that this vision of Plato should be realised. This is the dynamic aspect of Plato how he was an active reformer not only a thinker but a reformer however Plato is pre–eminently a philosopher. He was a mathematician and gave a high place to mathematics in his system of education. In fact it was written on his academy: ‘One who does not know mathematics need not enter here.’ That much was the importance he assigned to mathematics because according to him if you want to be a philosopher you should first be a mathematician and there is a great reason behind it which we shall see when you read the next part. Why he felt that knowledge of mathematics is necessary to enter into philosophy. He was an educationist, a great literary artist, a social and political thinker, a Law–giver, a utopian and in a sense even a theologian but all these were his subordinate and supporting aspects none supreme or equal to his philosophical personality. Philosophy is the very soul and breath of Plato, his mind is constantly fixed on the supreme idea of the Good this is the kernel of Plato. If you ask the very heart of Plato it is the idea of the Good. What is his idea of the Good we shall see in the next paper but this is the soul of Plato. If there is one thing that Plato contributed to the history of thought it is his idea of the good. He is constantly engaged in reconciling and harmonising the universal ideas. his constant task is to reflect and meditate upon the real and differentiate it from the phenomenon and the appearance. This is actually the definition of philosophy you might say. Philosophy begins when you distinguish between appearance and reality, as long as you take the world as it is you are not a philosopher. The moment you suspect that there is something else than what is visible to us philosophical thinking begins.

So Plato made a distinction between appearance and reality in this process he developed what is called the theory of ideas and the supreme point of his theory of idea is the concept of the idea of the Good. Now what is this, how he arrived at this is the substance of the second paper. So now we come to the second paper – The Theory of the Good.

The concept of the Good is the culmination of Plato’s philosophy. There is according to Plato a distinction between Reality and appearance the former is the universal and the permanent, the latter particular and transient. The former is the object of true knowledge, the latter the object of either imagination or opinion. We shall stop here now and reflect upon it, it’s a very important statement. The appearance is naturally what appears, what appears is appearance. Now anything that appears is what is presented…


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