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Socrates and Plato - Track 1504

Difference between perception and conception, only ideas are conceived this is the second statement the third statement is ideas are universal. The question is from where do the particulars arrive? And this is the question that Plato finds it difficult to answer, if he finds it difficult you must see how difficult it is for us this is where the problem lies, from where do the particulars arise? What is relationship between universals and particulars? According to Plato there is nothing in the universal which can be regarded as the origin of the particular. There was something in the universal which could originate particulars he could have said because of this principle which is the universal particulars still arise? There is nothing in the universal which could germinate particulars. So we cannot say particulars are manifestations of universals. You know when we repeat philosophical statements several times we differential points of philosophy seems to be grasped that is why there is a need always in philosophy to repeat some very important statements for at least one month but it is worthwhile to spend one month repeating the statements. You must have seen that we repeated already three times this statement but once again we are now doing this and seeing more clearly where is the difficulty? If particulars were inside the universals then particulars could be manifested out of universals but universals are universals. On the other hand we do find that every particular has something of universal, every particular, a cat has cattiness in it. So universal is in the particular, every chair has chairness in it, every human being has in him or in her humanness, every lion has lioness. In philosophy you should always keep your data before you. Data, what are the data? Every philosopher should know what is the meaning of data for without data no philosophical thinking will be possible. Data are given facts. In philosophical thinking you should always go back to the given facts because philosophy is an attempt to explain the given facts. A good philosopher is one who has before him if possible, totality of facts. The trouble is that nobody in general has got totality of facts before him, this is the problem. If all the facts are available to you then it is easy to arrive at an explanation of all the facts but we are in possession of a few facts. What happens is that we are in possession of a few facts and then we strain ourselves to find other facts even from the available facts. A few facts are available, others are not available so we imagine what will be the other facts or we infer what will be the other facts and this process of inference is central to philosophical thinking. So now what Plato does is we start actually from particular facts, there is a fact that there are particulars in this world, it is a general fact, there are particulars in the world. What’s the meaning of particular? Philosophy should ask the question what is the meaning of particular? Let us see if we can define it. What is a particular, how is cattiness different from a cat? A cat is particular, cattiness is universal, how do you distinguish between the two?

Your first statement particulars are parts of universal and Plato says no, that is the important point, exactly. He said universal has nothing in them which can originate a particular. So if you say universals are part of the particulars then there is a problem. It’s not an accurate definition but it’s a good effort you made because there is universal in the particular so it might seem that universals are part of the particular or particulars are part of the universals, they may appear to be so but Plato says universals are universals and there is nothing in them which can germinate particulars. On the other hand it is a fact that every particular has universality in it. But why does he not say simply that every universal also has particularities in it, very easy, no, very easy answer; such a great thinker he doesn’t accept it. There is such a distinction between the universal and the particular, the gulf seems to be so great he doesn’t do it that is the mark of great philosopher, no concession in thinking just to overcome a difficulty as we normally do. A difficulty arises we make a concoction, we make a fiction and we try to save on the difficulty but not a philosopher that is the greatness of Plato. If it was possible for him to point out look in the universal there is germ of the particular then you would say how did the germ come in the universal? This is the subtle point that is why it is said philosophy is a study of subtleties, this is the subtlety and this is good example. You know Mother said: An important part of education is the train the students in thinking on subtleties; that is where education real reaches its great climax. Normally we always think in gross terms, it is black and white, big and small, these are gross thoughts. When you come to this question of universal and particular and their relationship you come to the subtlety of thought. What is the relationship between the universal and the particular when you find the universality is in the particular but is particular in the universal that is the subtlety. Every particular has in it universality but has universal in it the particularity? And Plato says if you examine the universal you don’t find in it any particularity, universals are universals, they are independent, they have self–existence themselves. There is nothing like particularity in it that is why now he is obliged to explain the particular. It’s a fact, particulars exist there is no doubt about it, there is no doubt that universals exist it’s true that in every particular object you find universality by simple example of cat and cattiness, universals exist. He even said that if you want to find out the further truth of universalities, he says there are only three concepts, – similarity, universality and existence. You remember we had done it last time. According to Plato there are three important ideas which are not perceived but which are conceived. Similarity is not perceived it is conceived. Universality is not perceived it is conceived. Existence is not perceived it is conceived. So this being the fact, now let us say what is the fact, the fact is that there are particulars first level, there are particulars, first fact which is perceived by us, everywhere in the world we perceive particulars. The world as we see it, this flower is distinct from this flower, this is particular, this is particular. This body is different from this microphone, this is particular, this is particular. This chair is different from this chair this is particular, this is particular. In the whole world you see everywhere, you see only particulars they are perceived. But in the particulars you discover universals which are not perceived but conceived. Cattiness is not perceived, what you perceive is a cat. The cattiness is conceived. SO universals are conceived to be present in the particulars.

Now these are the two facts, particulars are presented to our perception and you find in particulars the universals. Now when you begin to reflect on the universal it is found that universal are self–existent. What is the meaning of self–existent? They exist on their own. They don’t depend on the particulars. This cat may die, that cat may die but cattiness remains. This chair may be destroyed or that chair may be destroyed but chairness remains the chairness does not depend upon this chair or that chair or that chair or even if all the chairs are removed the idea of chairness remains therefore universals are self–existent. So universals which are self–existent and now Plato goes to subtlety, do they have in them any germ of particulars? No that is where the problem lies. What is then the origin of the particulars? If particulars do not have their origin in universals then where is the origin of the particulars? And Plato has never answered this question satisfactorily. Then what is the answer even thought the answer is unsatisfactory, what is he answer? The answer is that according to Plato there is apart from the universal which are self–existent there is what may be called matter. Universals are ideas but apart from universals there is Matter. But is Matter self–existent then the problem will be very easy. If matter were self–existent then you can say there is matter and there are ideas and they two come together and we see the whole world, it is very easy to account but Plato is a very great philosopher he doesn’t want to solve the problem just by saying taking a easy recourse, no. if he had to say that matter is self–existent then he would have been obliged to answer the question what then is the difference between idea and matter because ideas are self–existent, if matter is also self–existent what is difference between the two? So he doesn’t answer simply by saying Alright they both are self–existent, they come together and the world is produced. What you are now doing is a true philosophical exercise; you can see that after three years of our search we are now coming to the grip with philosophical thinking, it takes a long time to arrive at a true philosophical thinking, gradually, little by little we are arriving at the crux of the philosophical opening, no escape from any problem that may arise and you have to be subtler than the subtlety such as there is no lapse in your steps.


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