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Socrates and Plato - Track 1305

Every particular is a kind of a distortion it’s not exactly the original universal, it’s like a copy, every copy is a slight distortion from the original. So according to Plato universal is real and all particulars are not so real they are being, non–being and they are all copies of the universal and this copy happens because they participate in the original. It’s a copy because it participates in the original; it is derived from the original. Pertaining to each characteristic of a particular thing there is universal Idea by participating in which the particular thing is what it is. Indeed, each particular thing has many characteristics, and therefore each particular should be regarded as participating in many universal Ideas. A cat, for instance, partakes of the universal cattiness, but also of Beauty, Blackness and so on. (When you say a beautiful cat, how do you say it’s a beautiful cat? You have understood the idea of beauty, universal and this cat participates in that idea of beauty to some extent, a copy of that ideal beauty and therefore you say it is beautiful, beautiful cat.) A particular cat may die but the universal Ideas of which it partakes are permanent; they are eternal.

Supposing all the books of the world are destroyed but you can always make a new book. Why? Because there is a universal book, universal idea of book is bookness that is permanent. So this book may die or that book may die, this cat may die or that cat may die but the concept off the cat remains, the concept of the book remains permanent.  These Ideas are, according to Plato, typal or ideal;( Now this word ‘typal’ is very important. In fact there is also a word used ‘archetypal’. What is type? You can say this is typical, we use this expression very often, this is typical of something. Typical is an example of a type. We all are typical of humanity, humanity is a type; cattiness is another type, dogness is another type every dog is typical of dogness, every cat is typical of cattiness, every human being is typical of humanity. So in the whole world you will find everything is typical of some universal therefore universal is called the type and we all and other things are examples therefore they are called typical. These ideas are according to Plato typal or ideal.) things of the world are copies of these Ideas; they reflect or imitate them and become what they are. But the original stuff of the particulars, the substance which imitates and reflects the Ideas, is Matter which is indefinable since it is something of the nature of non­–being.(Now this sentence is a new sentence we have not spoken of until now so I shall stop a little here. To make a copy of anything you require some substance. Supposing I ask you to copy out this paper now how do you make a copy of this paper? You have to have another paper on which you write it down. So apart from this you should have another substance on which you can make a copy. So according to Plato there is an idea or universal idea then there is another what he calls matter  and it is on this matter that the idea is imprinted so it becomes a copy. You take therefore according to Plato any object in the world three elements are involved – the idea which is universal and permanent, matter which is the stuff on which idea is printed, is copies as a result the particular comes out, every particular copy requires a substance on which idea is printed. We are all human beings because the idea of humanity is imprinted on this body. You might say there is a huge piece of matter and every human being is a kind of piece of matter on which humanity is printed therefore we are human beings. If cattiness was printed on our body we would have become cats. It depends on which idea is printed upon us. So there is first an idea then there is matter and then by combination of the two you get particulars, the copies. Now what is the nature of matter? It’s a question in Plato which has not been answered sufficiently well. The Idea is real and permanent; the copy is temporary, relative, what about matter? Is it permanent is it relative or what is it, where does it come from? The copy comes from the universal but this matter by itself on which the copy is made where does this come from? This is question he says it must be non–being because Idea is being, the copy is being, non–being and this matter is non–being. But what is this non–being, non–being itself doesn’t exist this is the question Plato has not been able to answer sufficiently well. We shall come back to this question afterwards because this is one of the deficiencies of Plato’s philosophy. When a philosopher is not able to answer a question properly you call it a defect of his philosophy. Even the greatest philosophers like Plato are not perfect they can’t answer all the questions there are some questions that are loosely answered he is not able to answer clearly very well. Non–being doesn’t exist if it doesn’t exist on which it is printed, the idea is printed on what? If it is a non–being it can’t be an object on which you can print. But it is certainly this matter is not that universal idea, surely nor is it by itself a print because the print takes place after the object is presented to it. So if this object is neither being nor being, non–being then what is this? He is obliged to say it is non–being.But that which is and yet non–being that is hardly an answer. So this is the one area that Plato is not able to answer this question.this is the one question that you should keep in one corner of your mind and ask has any philosopher answered this question, if Plato has not answered this very satisfactorily is there any other philosopher who has answered this question. We shall discuss this question later on after finishing Plato. Is there any philosopher who has answered the question what is the stuff of which the particular is made? Particular has two aspects, copy of the universal and the stuff on which the copy is made but what is the nature of the stuff on which the copy is made? According to Plato it is non–being is to say it is stuff which is non–being if it doesn’t exist how can you make a print on it? This is self contradiction but this is how he answers this question. There is lacuna in Plato’s philosophy at this point. So we repeat.) .  These Ideas are, according to Plato, typal or ideal; things of the world are copies of these Ideas; they reflect or imitate them and become what they are. But the original stuff of the particulars, the substance which imitates and reflects the Ideas, is Matter which is indefinable since it is something of the nature of non­–being. It is a non–entity which, however, is (This is self–contradiction but then this is how Plato says he cannot answer that question properly so he commits a self–contradiction.) It is a non–entity which, however, is and partakes of the universal Ideas. Particulars are not the manifestation of the universals, nor are universals made of the particulars; Ideas are self–existent and uncreated; the original stuff of the particulars too is self–existent and uncreated, but this self–existent is non–existent and attains to being only by partaking of the universal Ideas.

Now this sentence I have not explained to you I will leave it to you to explain to me after you have read it three, four times. Tomorrow I’ll ask you if you understood this sentence. But I’ll read once more this sentence.

 Particulars are not the manifestation of the universals, nor are universals made of the particulars; Ideas are self–existent and uncreated; the original stuff of the particulars too is self–existent and uncreated, but this self–existent is non–existent and attains to being only by partaking of the universal Ideas.

 Some of the great propositions of metaphysics are striking, paradoxical they seem to be unintelligible, they can’t be understood this is one of those sentences, so we shall repeat once more.

 Particulars are not the manifestation of the universals, nor are universals made of the particulars; Ideas are self–existent and uncreated; the original stuff of the particulars too is self–existent and uncreated, but this self–existent is non–existent and attains to being only by partaking of the universal Ideas.

As I said I’ll not explain this tomorrow we shall take up this when we start, reflect during the day what exactly this sentence means, reflect very leisurely without pressing your mind, no headache, the mind should be allowed very free leisure, allow this idea to repeat in your mind and see if it makes any meaning and we shall see tomorrow if we can make out what this sentence means. As I told you why I am dealing with Plato so much is that without understanding Plato you will not understand Western thought as a whole and what we are now studying is you might say the main substance of Plato, Plato is a very large thing, you know he has written thousands of pages and I have done for you a very small summary so that you don’t have to     read at once that huge literature but if you study this little thing you enter into the heart and soul of Plato, you understand what Plato used to say and you can see how far what he says is intelligible to understand that work and how and where he becomes unintelligible. We can’t understand him and there is some kind of deficiency in what he says. So you can at once speak up if you read this sentence you will at once speak up where exactly Plato is not intelligible and therefore you can suspect that he is not right there is something which is not clicking properly. Right so we shall do it tomorrow.


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