Socrates and Plato - Track 1404

So that Matter which is neither being nor non-being or that which is being, non-being is not the object of knowledge at the most it is the object of opinion therefore he calls it, it is a mere appearance. But even if it is a appearance if one argues but even if it is an appearance it must be in some sense be; even to appear it must manifest, must be before you and if it is. It must be related to the ideas and by that relation would form a unity of total existence of Reality. Now this last sentence is a difficult sentence. We shall repeat. And if it is it must be related to the ideas. Why should it be so? If it is it must be related to the ideas. Why should it be so? Reason is that only ideas are therefore if anything is it must be connected with ideas. If it is connected with the ideas then ideas and that which is connected with the ideas must form one consistent Reality, it cannot be thrown out and said Oh! It is not there at all, oh! Somehow it is there but it is not there. This kind of a statement leaves us in a kind of great dissatisfaction. Even if it is there even as an appearance it is there as an appearance and as an appearance you must find out its relationship with that which is real. What is the relationship? This is the argument that you’ll come across in the history of philosophy again and again and again, these are only three or four sentences but these sentences are going to be repeated by many philosophers. There is something here which is to be grasped. There is something which is not all that we can think of. We shall come back to this later on at present you only leave this matter in your mind that Plato’s Theory however great it may be there are difficulties about this theory and the one difficulty that we have pointed out is that Plato is obliged to say something that seems self-contradictory namely non-existent somehow exists or non-existence somehow comes into being. This statement needs a greater understanding there is something here which is not easy to grasp. We leave it at present because as I said in the study of history of philosophy this statement will come several times again and again. So we’ll ample chance of discussing this matter in many other contexts. One of the best ways of reflection is to have different contexts in which the same thing is conceived. You take the same subject in one context you try to understand then you leave it then you take another context and the same thing again comes back to you and you think again of it and a new light is shed, take again a third context in which the same problem comes up and again you study it and a new light is shed on it that is how good philosophers do not dismiss anything saying: Oh! It is rubbish. Every good philosopher is a wise man that is to say he feels even a mad man speaking something the meaning, even a child doing something insignificant plays a significance.

 You know there is a short story of St Augustine. I don’t know if you have heard the name St Augustine, one of the great philosophers of Christianity. He was extremely connected, concerned with the practice of self-control. He was trying to control his senses and there was a period of his life when his senses were masters and he was not able to control his senses and he was very concerned about it. At a very critical moment when he was really striving to control his senses in his room there was a small child playing with something and the child happened to play with a book and the child opened a page and said: ‘Take, take’, he said to St Augustine and he took it and he read it and there was a message of such a great value that while reading that message he could control his senses. Now you see the child did not know something which was so precious to St Augustine, therefore a good philosopher is one who does not merely dismiss something saying: Finished! Like a carom board, you strike a piece and then you throw it then finished. Philosophy is not a carom board, it’s a different kind of a board, every piece has a meaning in it. You don’t strike out, in a carom board you strike out the pieces; in philosophy you put all the pieces together in a meaningful manner that is the play of philosophy. Although many people try to study philosophy like a carom board but it is a wrong way of studying philosophy. In philosophy there has been a great tendency of affirmation and negation, it’s a method of doubt. I say one thing, you say the opposite – finished. I argue against you, you are out it’s not a cricket match. Philosophy you take every piece carefully and see where this piece fits into the whole, it may seem absurd here, it may have no meaning here but a good philosopher does not therefore say: Finished, I don’t want it, deny it. It is easy to deny anything, very difficult to find its true place, the totality, place it in the totality.

Why do we study philosophy? We study philosophy precisely for this reason. It is not to make you combatants and wrestlers in which you defeat your opponent as Buddha said: A true debate is one in which everyone wins. A true debate is one in which everyone wins. So a philosophical debate should be of such a nature that everyone wins in it, nobody is defeated. You find out where you are right, where I am right and put all the things into totality. So we shall come back to this point where Plato is saying something which is at present not very satisfactory and as I told you we have no justification, we have no authority to criticise Plato. Even these statements we have made only because our forefathers, many of our forefathers have thought about it and they have come to some kind of comments and we are only mouth-piecing their comments. You have no right to criticise anybody unless you do better than whom you criticise, what authority do you have? You are not better than Plato; you can do philosophy better than Plato? No, not you and me but you are able to comment on Plato because many others who are equal to Plato or approximating Plato, they made many comments which we have heard and therefore we have the advantage which Plato did not have. We have the advantage so we are able to make some comments. In any case children always have a greater advantage than their fathers and mothers because they have the advantage of the experiences of their fathers or mothers therefore they have chance of becoming better. So it is true that you will be better philosopher than Plato but after some time. Once you have done lot of philosophy, when you have played the game quite often then you are able to piece everything together in its proper place and then you’ll be a good philosopher and you’ll be able to say what should I say wisely. To say something is easy but to say wisely is difficult and to say something wisely only when you have been able to piece together different aspects in their proper place and that is called justice, we have defined justice. Justice is that which places everything in its proper place. Philosopher is just because he puts everything in its proper place.

Now in the next paragraph which I’ll not read because the time is over but I’ll just tell you the next paragraph there is a statement from a dialogue which is called Parmenides. Now this word Parmenides, you have heard already. You remember I told you about Parmenides in one of the very early lectures I‘ve spoken of Parmenides. Now in one of the dialogues of Plato, Parmenides is a character, he has come to an assembly where Socrates is a younger man and Parmenides is a very big man by that time because Socrates came much later than Parmenides. So in that dialogue Parmenides is a very big man, in age and in wisdom and Socrates is a young philosopher and Socrates is speaking of his Theory of Ideas and in this dialogue Socrates himself criticises his own philosophy, Plato that means that Plato is self-critical. It is a beautiful dialogue because Plato himself knew the difficulties of his philosophy. He made his statements and of his philosophy but he knew that there are difficulties in his philosophy; it is called self-criticism. This is a great merit, anybody taking his theory and saying: Look I am making this theory, there are difficulties in my own theory that is the greatness of Plato. He wrote a dialogue specially to point out difficulties in his own philosophy. So in the next paragraph you’ll find several arguments which Plato himself makes against his own theory, his own philosophy. It makes our task also easier because when he himself has been able to criticise his own philosophy at least we are able to sing a song along with him when we want to make a comment on him. So our commentary on Plato becomes easier because he himself has made a commentary, every good philosopher should be able to point out the defects of his own philosophy. Wherever there is a defect we should be able to see here is the defect, you should not say because it is my philosophy I must present it to the people so it is all correct, No, you should have repeated understanding of your own philosophy, every time you find out a defect in it, you correct that defect, again you repeat it, again you expound your philosophy again you find out where is the difficulty. A good philosopher should be able to state his philosophy seven times at least and seven times he should be able to criticise it then you can be more confident and say now my philosophy seems to be at least presentable, I can now put before the people. Alright, so next time when I come we shall study Parmenides and his against himself, against Plato. Thank you.