Socrates and Plato - Track 1501

I don’t have so many days to stay here at present so I thought I will do something Platonic, not Plato but do something Platonic. There are three words with regard to Plato which we must remember; Plato discovered the distinction between perception and conception. We had noted that physical objects are perceived but not conceived but in order to be conceived you need the intervention of conceptions. So let us repeat the sentence, you know it is always good in philosophy to repeat certain important sentences because then only they are better grasped so let me repeat. Physical objects are perceived but not conceived but they can be conceived by the help of conceptions. A simple example is a chair or a cat. You open your  eyes and you see a chair or a cat therefore perceived but when you are not opening your eyes and you want to conceive of a chair that you have seen there is a miraculous operation of an idea, conception is basically an idea, you have an idea of what can be called a chair. In other words you have to have an idea of chairness, why do you call is chair because there is a class of chair, they resemble each other and there is therefore universality, there is universality of chairness’. There are many kind of chair but all of them you call chair; this is a chair, that is a chair, that is a chair all of them are chairs why? Because there is something which is common like chairness. Now chairness you cannot perceive, you open your eyes and try to see chairness, you can see chairs but you cannot see, perceive physically chairness, so chairness is a concept. You may see this cat or that cat, you can perceive a cat but you can only conceive cattiness, it’s a universal cattiness. So Plato made a distinction between perception and conception and said that perception depends upon your physical contact with the object and that what you perceive is only a particular object but what you conceive is universal, you do not see, you do not perceive a physical contact, it is ideative contact. What is conceived is not perceived physically. Chairness is not physically perceived you only conceive. Now this is the first proposition I that I had made to you earlier while dealing with Plato then second proposition that Plato makes is that universals are not manufactured, the physical objects can be manufactured, can be produced but universal concepts are; this is the second statement of Plato. The third statement that he made was that similarity; universality and existence are all conceived but not perceived. Similarity, universality and existence, this was the subject we studied at length last time and I am only summarising we shall need when I come again to meditate on this subject at least for one or two days. We have meditated already on this subject but we shall meditate again as I said philosophical ideas need to be reflected upon again and again and again. So we shall meditate on this subject similarity, universality and existence are conceived but not perceived. The fourth proposition that he had made was that universals are not composed of particulars. This is also a very important statement. Universals are not composed of particulars; if you take an orange, if you open an orange several pieces will come out and you will find that each piece is a part of the total orange. So each particular part of the orange composes the total orange. Now in regard to universals it is not so, it is not as if so many particulars put together becomes a universal, it’s a particularity of the idea of the universal. Universal is found in particulars, a chair has in it chairness by virtue of which it is a chair so you find it to be there but it is not composed of particulars, it is not as if all the chairs put together in the world creates the totality of chairness, it’s not that. So particulars do not constitute universals, although universals are present in particulars then we had another statement from Plato namely, universals do not manifest particulars. Then the question is how are particulars produced? If particulars do not have their origin in the universals then how are particulars produced? The answer that Plato gives is, it is very difficult to account for it, it is very difficult to account for it.

Now if Plato finds it very difficult you can understand how difficult it will be for us. Plato a supreme thinker in the world history, if he finds it difficult and when he tries to answer this question you can see how much hesitant he is. If you read his dialogue you’ll find how hesitant he is in answering this question and this is one question that you should carry with you for a long time, it is to be reflected upon again and again the relationship between the universals and the particulars, how are they related. Although universals are found in the particulars, particulars do not constitute the universals on the other hand universals do not manifest the particulars both ways there are difficulties. If you say that universals are composed of particulars there is a big problem so he denies it. if you say that universals manifest particulars then also there are problems so he does not affirm it. So he proposes the following solution this also we had discussed last time I am only summarising for the sake of refreshing our memory. There is something which is nothing. Now you can see the difficulty of Plato. There is something which is nothing, it’s a self-contradiction but he says, I mean he is obliged to say in order to account for this and you can see the difficulty of his answer and he himself knows the difficulty of his answer but let us first of all understand what is his answer. There is something which is nothing which comes into contact with the universals which are always there. There is something which is nothing which comes into contact with the universals which are always there – eternal. In fact they are, they exist. Now by this contact that which is nothing becomes particular. The particular is the result of something which is nothing with that which is always as a result of which the particular is manufactured and particular imprints on itself the universal. It is a particular which gets the imprint on the universal, the particular is the copy of the universal, the universal does not produce the particular. The original remains as it is but something else comes and gets it printed by the universal. Therefore particular is and is not, universals are always there that which is something which is nothing when gets imprinted by universal on it becomes particular that particular can be described as that which is and which is not. You can see immediately how difficult it is and how hopeless it is, the situation is hopeless. You can immediately see it is full of self-contradictions but he puts it forward knowing very well he has as much intelligence as you and I have, he immediately sees this is something terrible. I mean it is self-contradiction but can’t help it; he says this is what it is. This is the summary of what I had told you last time. They all need to be repeated again and again. We need not take Plato to be final in all that he has said we only want to expound, first understand what Plato has said very clearly in very brief terms. Even if you it is a self-contradiction, Plato himself will not deny it. He knows himself the difficulties, I had told you last time there is a dialogue called Parmenides in which he himself criticises his theory, he brings out the inadequacies of his theory himself, it’s not as if he is not aware. And I am speaking of this to you very clearly in a few sentences so that the whole philosophy hangs in the mind with some kind of clarity and remember whenever you your self will try to resolve this problem – the relationship between universal and particular, you will face the same problems. There is something in this world which is not clear. Particular you see, you can perceive the particular, universal you can conceive, you can see you can conceive universal in the particular but how does this come about? The conjunction of the universal and the particular is one of the most important problem and the more you think of it the more philosophical you become, this is the key. If anybody wants to be a philosopher one of the ways, there are many ways of becoming a philosopher but this is one of the ways by which you can be a good philosopher, you go on conceive and thinking on this subject and gradually your mind will become philosophical.So we shall whenever we meet for the next few occasions we shall reflect on it but even in your leisure you can reflect in a very quiet moment and wonder at this mystery of the universal and the particular. Now this is only by way of summarising in what we had done last time and I told you that I would have liked to continue this subject if I were to stay here for a few days more but this is enough for the moment.