We shall now read again and so will find it not so difficult as we did feel if we had not preface with a long talk on the subject. However we shall go very slowly with every paragraph. In fact we shall read every paragraph twice so that if you have any problems, questions then you have time to ask. I am giving so much time to Plato because as I have told you that without Plato you will not understand the entire thought of the West, entire history of Western philosophy. If you know Plato quite well other things become easier to understand the West. So let us now start.
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; Let us repeat.
What is universal and permanent? There are two words I have used. There is a distinction between reality and appearance. Now which one of them is universal and permanent?
Good. Reality and what is particular and transient?
Answer: Appearance, good. Transient means temporary that which passes away. Joys and sorrows of human life are transient. What does it mean? Transient means that which is temporary that which passes away. It doesn’t remain. Joys and sorrows of human life do not remain. Now you are joyous, now you are sorrowful. Again you are joyous, again sorrowful, all transient, passes away. The inner delight is permanent. There is in us a reality which is delightful permanently so that really real. Our joy is and sorrows are appearances they are transient. The former is the object of true knowledge. What is the meaning of the former and the latter? You know the use of these two terms – the former and the latter, let us understand. Whenever there are two words written one after the other – here are two words written, reality and appearance these are the two words. Now when you refer to the reality, you say it is the former, when you refer to appearance here it is latter that which comes afterwards. So when it is said the former the former is the object of true knowledge that means former refers to …Reality. Good. The former is the object of true knowledge. The latter either the object of imagination or opinion, latter means? Appearance.
The former is the object of true knowledge, the latter either the object, is relative and therefore incapable of being known absolutely and therefore truly that is that you cannot truly understand the world as it is as it appears to all of us. Particulars according to him possess contradictory qualities. You take any particular the same object is beautiful from one point of view, ugly from another point of view. You take the most beautiful object it depends upon the angle at which you look at it. You look at it from another angle the same object appears to be not so beautiful. So every particular object has contradictory qualities that which is cold is from another point of view hot supposing you have touched ice in the first place and then you touch a cool place it will seem warm because the first experience of your coolness was that of ice, icy cold. The next one is cool, not so cold so that which is cool seems to be warm if it is touched after your touch of very cold place. Similarly that which is warm, what you call warm is cool depending upon the experience that you had previously. If you have touched very warm thing and then you touch a warm thing then it will be cool. So the same object is hot and cold, contradictory depends upon your previous experience. The same object seems to be pleasant and yet painful depending upon your previous experience. If somebody had lived in a house of a tyrant where everyday there is a kind slavery and even somebody is beaten up by the tyrant now suddenly the slave is transferred to another place where the master is not tyrannical then he will find this going together to be heavenly; although the truly heavenly would be altogether quite different depending upon your previous experience and when you compare the previous experience with the present experience you find to be somebody to be kind or cruel. You know modern children are so much loved by their parents that even a little scolding by a parent, the child feels the mother or father has done a great injustice to it, even a slight slap by a parent gives the child the experience of tremendous cruelty; Oh! I have been beaten, the child says. This is because modern children do not know how much their parents were beaten up by their parents. And therefore in comparison they do not know what it is, a mere scolding, a little scolding the child feels tremendously hurt. So that mild scolding will be felt very pleasant if he had experienced the kind of treatment which the parents of the modern children had experienced from their parents. I knew for example our teachers used to beat us on our hands everyday almost. We have this experience and now we see the children being treated we feel the children are so kindly treated you can’t imagine. I remember when I used to make one mistake in writing or dictation the teacher used to say: now you hold out your hand and there would come a cane straight on my hand and five canes for one mistake, ten canes for two mistakes and so on multiply the mistakes and then you have multiplication of canes. This was the condition of the school not long ago. But now even a light cane even would mean tremendous cruelty which is true actually, I agree with the children of today, there should be no cruelty, no punishment of this kind at all. but you can see what Plato says is that the same thing is good or bad depending upon your previous experience, it is relative, it is contradictory from one point of view it is kind from another point of view it is cruel. Particulars according to him possess contradictory qualities; a thing which you might call beautiful has some elements of ugliness too. It is not pure and ideal and unmixed beauty. What is smaller as compared to one thing is bigger as compared to another. The same thing a person is told as compared to many others if the others are comparatively smaller but the same person is called to be small if there is a comparison with taller people. So the same thing is at once small and tall. It is therefore at once small and bigger, it is relative. This word relative is very important.
What is relative? Relative is that which changes its quality depending upon the relationship it has with which it is compared as distinguished from absolute. Absolute is what it remains irrespective of any comparison you make, it is absolute. When you say it is absolutely perfect it means you compare it with anything, it is perfect that is the absolute that which remains the same inspite of any comparison that is absolute. But that which changes its character depending upon the relationship with others it is relative. Finally particulars are constantly in the flux and therefore constantly change their nature they are therefore being, non-being. It’s a peculiar word which has been coined by Plato – they are being, non-being. As I’ve told you things which are in flux as long as they are seen they are being but the next moment they disappear therefore they become non-being, so they are being, non-being. All things which are in flux are being, non-being. Particulars re according to Plato the objects of perceptions and perception he contends is not knowledge. In his dialogue Theaetetus he points out that comparison, knowledge of existence and understanding of number are essential to knowledge but they cannot be perceived by senses. I have spoken of this last time we shall repeat this sentence because it is a very important sentence.
There is a dialogue which Plato has written the title of the dialogue is Theaetetus. Now Plato has written about forty dialogues. We had come across two of his dialogues when you were reading Socrates. You might have forgotten the two names but I shall remind you, one is called Charmides, the other is called Lychees his theory of ‘Virtue is Knowledge’, where we had discussed two dialogues Charmides and Lychees. Now similarly we spoke of Republic is also a very big dialogue written by him and one portion of that dialogue we read yesterday from Plato. Now this is another dialogue he has written it is called Theaetetus. Now in that dialogue he points out that comparison, knowledge of existence and understanding of number are essential for knowledge but they cannot be perceived by senses.