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Socrates and Plato - Track 1403

Now what follows is not exposition but comment. I told you the difference between exposition and comment or criticism. An exposition is simply to state what is contended accurately, comment is to make a judgement on what is said, comment is a judgement on what is said. Now these judgements are normally of two kinds, of three kinds. Judgements are of three kinds. A judgement can say this is true or false or it is good or bad or it is beautiful or ugly. All judgements, you look at the whole world ultimately you’ll find there are only three kinds of judgements in the world. When you make a comment, the comment will be only of three kinds; either it is true or false, good or bad or beautiful or ugly. All other statements are only combinations of these three or shades of these three, you can say this is partly true, partly false or you can say it is so, so, when you say it is so, so what does it mean? It is partly good, partly bad, partly true, partly false, partly beautiful; partly ugly so you say it is so, so. Now what follows is a comment in this paragraph we are pointing out that what Plato has said is not absolutely satisfying there is some limitation. Now a good judgement is one in which you not only make a comment and a judgement you also give reasons for your judgement. If I say it is true or false, I should say why it is true, if I say it is false I should say why it is false. If I say it is good you should say why it is good, if I say why it is bad I should say why it is bad. Similarly if you say it is beautiful you should say why it is beautiful, why it is not beautiful that’s called a bit comment, it is also called a learned comment, a comment which you have made after learning, after studying, a studied comment, a comment after study, you don’t really make a comment just like that. So now we make a few comments, just see these comments. Obliviously one feels here the limitation s of Plato’s theory, you know Plato is such a great philosopher that these small children making a comment that there are limitations in Plato’s theory is to speak tall things with our small mouths so we must be very humble while making statements about Plato he is a very, very great philosopher. So if we say there are limitations we state this with great modesty, we should not tell that now we have gone beyond Plato we can see from above Plato and we can say: Oh! He is like this, it’s not in that sense we should not criticise such great philosophers in that sense. It is our fortune that after Plato two thousand and more years have passed therefore there have arisen so many other philosophers who have thought over Plato and we are inheritors of all these therefore we have learnt from so many others and now we come back although small in our age we have the privilege of being the children of so many other philosophers and therefore we have some kind of a possibility of commenting. Normally a good education is one in which you should be allowed to comment only when you can make a better philosophy than the philosophy you are criticising. You should be yourself greater than Plato to be able to criticise Plato. So when you make these comments do not say that we are greater than Plato and therefore making comments, some other great people have also made comments, we have learnt from them and we are now able to reproduce them to some extent and we also can think in that way because of the light thrown by so many others therefore we are making these comments. So as good students of philosophy when you make a comment on Plato or on Aristotle or any great philosophers we should be very modest. So in that spirit I am now speaking.

Obviously one feels here the limitations of Plato’s theory. A self–existent which is non–existent is self contradiction this is the first statement. A self–existent which is non–existent is self contradiction. Now has Plato said that there is something self–existent is non–existent, if you read the previous sentence you’ll find one sentence there read again, The original stuff of the particulars is self–existent an uncreated but this self–existent is non–existent. This is how Plato says. The universals are of course permanent and self–existent but particulars themselves are not self–existent but the stuff of which particulars are made that stuff according to Plato is self–existent but non–existent. It’s a new kind of statement actually, he conceives of a existent which is non–existent, something that is not there but attains some kind of existence because of imprint of universal on it but in itself it must be something which is not there, it’s a very strange statement and that is why we say it is obvious – a self–existent which is non–existent is self contradiction; that which is self–contradictory is normally not true. That which is self–contradictory is normally not true. I am riding not riding, if I make a statement: I am riding not riding, you are making a nonsensical statement, doesn’t make any sense. When a statement is made and makes no sense it is only called a noise, you are making a noise but it has no meaning, a meaningless noise – abracadabra, this is also a word, its only noise it makes no meaning, abracadabra. So you can say a self–contradiction is abracadabra, what does it mean, a noise which has no meaning. So you can say a self–existent which is non–existent is self–contradiction. A is both b and not b is a self–contradiction therefore not true. A is a therefore not self–contradictory but if a, is a and not a at the same time, like I am riding not riding at the same time is an impossibility therefore I say it is not true. Now a thinker like Plato surely must have thought it is not an easy thing surely even a child can show, what are you talking; self–existent which is non–existent that it is a self–contradiction obviously but a man like Plato has said it inspite of the fact that he knew this law very well – Law of contradiction that if there is something self–contradictory it is only senseless. Why was Plato led to say something of this kind? The mistake that you are pointing out surely he must have known much better than you and I that which is so obvious but still he is obliged to make this kind of statement therefore don’t merely dismiss by saying therefore Plato is wrong. You can say there is self–contradiction, something that is not understandable something that is wrong to our understanding but at the same time in the corner of your mind you must know that if Plato has made this kind of statement there must be a strong reason for him to do so, so keep this idea behind while we go forward. SO first criticism is a self–existent which is non–existent is self–contradiction. It is inconceivable and therefore something that cannot be.

Now we argue. As I said every comment should be given a reason. If you have a good comment you should have a good reason. So now we are giving some kind of further reason. If it is really non–existent what is it that partakes of the ideas, if it really non–existent, then what is it that partakes of the ideas; not the particulars because the particulars are the results. When this matter which he says does not exist and yet exists that is now presented to the universal ideas, universal ideas are printed then only particulars are produced. So this stuff cannot be particulars, it is not universals because universals are really being they are not existent, non–existent, they are permanent, they are real. So what is it that really partakes of these ideas and can the non–existent ever attain to being? Plato says that this matter, the stuff on which universals are imprinted is a non–being which attains to being when universals imprint themselves on the stuff. So our question is can non–existent ever attain the state of being, that which is not can it ever be? There is a very famous sentence in Indian philosophy, it is stated in the Bhagavad Gita, it is worth stating that statement and keep in your mind. In Sanskrit it is nasato vidhate bhavo na bhavo vidhayte satha. Now you don’t know Sanskrit I will not press upon it, I’ll only explain the translation of it. It says of non–existence there can be no existence, of non–existence there can be no existence. Of existence there can be no non–existence, of existence there can be no non–existence. So according to the Gita that which is non–existent can never attain to existence that which really exists, can never cease to be that which exists, exists. It cannot then afterwards perish, existence cannot become non–existence, non–existence cannot become existence. But here Plato says matter is non–existent but when ideas imprint themselves on it then matter attains some kind of being. So our question is can the non–existent ever attain to being. Plato would say perhaps that it cannot and it does not and therefore he says it is neither being, nor non–being. He has made two statements – matter is neither being nor non–being or it is being, non–being and there is a difference between the two statements. Matter is neither being nor non–being or matter is being, non–being. His ultimate conclusion is that it is not the object of knowledge because knowledge can be only of that which is, that which is always there, which is permanent, which can be conceived.


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