Socrates and Plato - Track 1202

Let us see again The Life Divine once again, page number 74 which we were reading just now continue that. “But is it equally true that underlying this movement, supporting it, there is nothing that is moveless and immutable? Is it true that existence consists only in the action of energy? Or is it not rather that energy is an output of Existence?” Here Sri Aurobindo puts a question mark just to lead you to this conclusion that if there is an output there must be something from where it is the output. So the conclusion is that there is. You cannot explain the appearance unless there is something behind it. Appearance exists; the appearance is there before you therefore there must be an existence behind it which is not moving this is the conclusion. Appearance is, we do see the appearance, if there is appearance there must be something behind it that which appears and that which appears must be motionless, it must be stable, really stable that which does not move. That which is motionless, that which is permanent is real. I am reading The Life Divine at the same time because I want to show you that this argument which Plato has made long, long ago is such a powerful argument that Sri Aurobindo also uses that argument after how many thousands of years, it’s the same argument although much more refined. If you read The Life Divine chapter it is Platonic argument basically but put forth with all the other data which have been accumulated. One day we shall read this whole chapter and you will find what an improvement is upon Plato’s own argument. But basically it is the Platonic argument. All that is in the world is in a flux, in such a flux that before you can grasp anything in it, it is gone therefore it is not. Therefore the only way you can describe is it is, it is not but if it is, it is not; it must be originated from that which is because if there is not anything from which it emerges you have to explain, ask from where has it come? So you have to find a base for it, if it is an output, it must be output of something stable. So the conclusion is that the experience itself proves that there is something which is stable. The appearance is of motion but motion itself proves that there must be motionless. Motionless is the base from which the motion arises. You may not see the motionless, what you see is only the movement but what you see proves that there must be a motionless reality. This is the essential Platonic argument. It’s a very short argument but it has stood the test of time. Plato was born in 427 BC, so let us say he wrote all this around 400 BC, so 2400 years ago he wrote this argument and even today, of course there are many disputes about this argument but nobody has been able to completely refute it. And as I said Sri Aurobindo was writing this he has restated this argument of course in a much more ample manner. In fact I have the habit of saying this argument is the first and the last lesson of metaphysics. It is not only the first lesson of metaphysics but also the last lesson. If you just have this argument in your mind and if anybody says what is metaphysics? The first statement of metaphysics and the last statement of metaphysics, it is nothing but this. There is one very sentence of Sri Aurobindo, only one line which I will read out to you which concludes this whole thing again chapter number IX, page number 75, you look in the second paragraph: “Existence without quantity, without quality, without form is not only conceivable, but it is the one thing we can conceive behind these phenomena.” Appearances are phenomena. The only thing that you can conceive it is, it is not, you do not conceive. When you say: it is, it is not, there is no firm conception, conception is gone; it is, it is not, so you have not been able to conceive it. So the only thing that you can conceive is that which is stable, which is. So existence without quantity, quality, without movement, something which is behind the appearances is the only thing that you can conceive, the only thing that you can rationally conceive is existence, pure existence, – stable, immobile. Right? This sentence is the first and last sentence of metaphysics. Once you have studied it you can now close the book and say we have now done metaphysics, all the rest is simply spinning out of it and you can spin a lot the whole book is a spinning actually but the basic substance, basic argument in metaphysics is barely this much that which is not cannot be conceived that which appears is, is not, therefore not be conceived, cannot be denied at the same time, it is conceived, it is not conceived. What appears is conceived is not conceived because it is, it is not; the only thing you can conceive is existence which is and which is permanently there. This conclusion, this whole argument is the purely metaphysical argument. So this is you might say I have touched the heart of Plato and presented to you. We shall now continue the spinning of Plato.

Now last time we had a very important subject which we discussed mainly – existence. We discussed this while distinguishing between appearance and reality. Now I will make one statement over which we need to reflect. Existence cannot be perceived but can be conceived. Now reflect on this statement. Existence cannot be perceived but can be conceived. According to Plato you cannot perceive existence but you can conceive existence. There is a distinction between perception and conception. Now can it be said that we do not perceive existence, Plato says so, Plato says you cannot perceive existence but you can conceive existence. Do you perceive existence anywhere? You can for example say: this is a lion then do you add and see that he exists. State, first of all say: lion, point out lion and then say see that he is existing can you make a statement of this kind or even if you make a statement does it make any difference? The moment you say lion, point out to him, are you perceiving existence apart from the lion or you are only seeing the lion? This is the statement to be reflected in fact many philosophers have reflected upon this simple thing for years and years and years. Plato said you never see existence, you never perceive existence, you can only conceive existence.

 Now you must therefore distinguish between perception and conception. What is conception? We normally feel we see existence everywhere, where so many things are in existence. So Plato seems to be wrong when he says that we cannot perceive existence but anything that is presented to us is an experience of existence. What he says is: what is perceived is only this object or that object, or that object or a assemblage of objects; you can perceive, you can sense and perceive so many existing objects. You are seeing objects, he says you are not seeing existence, you are only perceiving objects but you can conceive existence. Let us take another example. You take two human beings, any two human beings you take, now according to Plato you cannot perceive similarity between the two human beings but you can conceive the similarity between the two. So it’s a very interesting perception. Actually we think that we perceive similarity between this and this. There are two human beings and we see both are similar to each other, we see it. According to Plato you perceive this human being and perceive this human being but that they are similar to each other is not seen, is not perceived but conceived. So you can conceive similarity the whole idea of similarity is not given, is not perceived, is not in your observation. What you observe is one object and the other and the moment you say they are similar something else has happened to your mind which has gone beyond perception. The operation of conception has started, you conceive.

Let us go now deeper. You see two cats. Now the cats are not absolutely identical, both are called cats. By virtue of what do you call both these to be cats, whatever you are observing is not the cause of your saying they are similar, each cat is different from the other cat, this cat is not exactly identical with the other cat but there is between the two what we call cattiness. Now you don’t see cattiness, what you see is a cat and this cat and this cat. You don’t see cattiness, you conceive cattiness. You see two chairs, each chair has something similar to the other chair therefore both of them are called chairs. Some chairs have got arms, some don’t have arms but they are chairs, something like chair - ness you perceive, you don’t perceive, conceive. You go beyond the realm of perception you enter into the realm of conception. Similarity, universality and existence these are three things that Plato concentrated upon. These three are not perceived but conceived. What you perceive is always a particular, you perceive an assemblage of particulars, this object or that object or any other object but behind what you perceive is similarity only where there is operation of conception that you can have these two concepts – similarity, universality and existence are not precepts but they are concepts. I only invite you to think about it, don’t come to conclusions it will take time for us to understand what is in us that conceives as distinguished from what is it that perceives. In perception you lose your senses, anything that is sensed can be perceived, it is said that actually speaking you don’t even perceive objects, you only perceive what is called sensa. There are so many vibrations of sensations that go on upon our senses, sense of touch, sense of sight, sensa of hearing, sense of taste. We only have sensations and these sensations are perceived, when they become more and more retainable, more and more fixed then we say I have perceived. If we are rushing in a express train and lot of trees are running fast in the landscape, you may not perceive the trees, what you are perceiving is only the sensa, so many impression of trees rooted. So when we open our eyes, open our ears what we are seeing is only by running landscape.