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David Makinster-- we're continuing Plato's cosmology,
metaphysics, and epistemology, talking about the divided line.
Plato is going to introduce this metaphor of the sun.
And we'll talk about that much more
when we talk about the cave.
But for now, understand the sun gives light.
Light make sight possible.
And what is it that we see?
Anything that's inherently visible.
It's the nature of some objects that they're
susceptible to being seen.
The parallel is that being, which
he calls the form of the good, is the highest universal.
Being is what makes truth possible.
Without being, nothing is real.
Without reality, as we saw before,
there aren't truths, because there's
nothing for the truth to be about.
Without truths to be known, there's no knowledge.
So what is it that we know?
Things that are by nature intelligible.
Just as we see things that are by nature able to be grasped
by vision, we know things that are
able to be grasped by the intellect--
in other words, universals.
Let's talk a little bit about this notion of being,
or, if you will, the good.
The term the form of the good is inscrutable
to many Western first time readers of Plato.
What on earth is he talking about, the form of the good?
This sounds like he's talking about God.
Well, if so he's talking about it in such an abstract sense
that it's not something that's going
to be very familiar to most traditions,
although his conception of the good
was very influential on both Christian and Islamic theology
in medieval times and, to a lesser extent,
on the Hebrew conception of God through philosophers
such as Philo.
So Plato says, look, as you're going up
this pyramid of ever more general universals,
you get to the final dyad, which is identity and difference.
Dyad is a pair of opposites in this instance.
So you get to the primal dyad, as he said.
That's as high as you can go with dielectric, as high as you
can go with investigation that's based
on a language and concepts.
Identity and difference-- everything
that can be said to be this rather than that
must participate in or embody the universals
of identity and difference.
It is this thing.
It is not that thing.
Language, Plato says, is inherently dualistic.
We can't have language without making distinctions and making
reference over time.
And that requires that we split the world
into different particular objects
based on identity and difference.
Of course, you have all of these mystics
from various different traditions saying, actually,
beyond conceptual level, we're all one.
It's all one.
And standing here on this side of that conceptual level,
trying to understand it, it's impossible to understand,
because it's like, well, that's ridiculous.
You're you and I'm me and we're different.
Yeah, but from this side, we're all one.
Identity and difference are not the ultimate universals.
They're as high as you can go without abandoning language.
That means whatever is beyond identity and difference
can only be experienced directly.
It can't be grasped with concepts.
As Socrates puts it, I can't describe the good to you.
What I can do is turn your head in the right direction,
clear the debris of misconception
away from the front of your eyes,
and then you have to see it for yourself.
And he's going to repeat that kind of language
when he talks about the cave, the metaphor of the cave
and coming out of the cave.
The form of the good, as it's usually translated-- you
can think of that as the universal of being.
This is simply primal being.
Why is it called the good?
Because it is, if you will, perfect being.
Just as the universal of circularity
is perfect circularity, the universal of triangularity
is perfect triangularity, the universal
of being is going to be perfect being.
Perfect being is outside of space and time.
It doesn't come into being and pass away.
Now it's calling it the form of the good sounds more plausible,
Also, the Greek idea of what makes something good or bad
is based, usually, on the notion of ergon, which is a function,
if you will.
For every ergon, there's a perfection
and there's a defect-- [GREEK] and [GREEK].
The purpose of the eye is to see.
The better your vision is, the more perfect your eye is.
The more defective your vision is the more defective it is.
You have good eyes.
You got bad eyes, whatever.
And this permeates the whole idea of virtue.
What should we be able to do?
If we are good people, we should be able to live very well.
The extent that we live effectively,
causing suffering for ourselves and for others inadvertently,
doing all kinds of destructive and self-destructive things,
we're living defectively.
So this idea of excellence and defect
permeates their notion of what is good and what is bad.
Since universals are exactly and perfectly
what they are-- they don't come into being,
they don't pass away, they're not approximate-- being is,
if you will, perfect being, hence the form of the good.
It's the best thing that you can be it.
It just perfectly is.
I had a professor who used refer to it to it as "is-ness."
To the extent that anything embodies the universal being,
To the extent that it embodies being
only imperfectly or temporarily, it's unreal.
Just as to the extent that this lid or lip, rather, of the cup
embodies circularity, it's circular.
To the extent that it doesn't it isn't.
Well, if you take that all the way up the pyramid to being,
the most primal of universals, the extent to which something
embodies being is the extent to which
it has reality and is knowable.
The extent to which it doesn't, in which
it fails to embody being, is the extent
to which is it impermanent and not really knowable.
This is another innovation of Plato that is very important.
The idea that metaphysics or, if you will,
reality and epistemology-- or if you will,
knowledge-- run in tandem to each other and they
are matters of degree-- this is not dualism.
There is only one world.
But it's populated, if you will, by things
that are of varying degrees of reality.
The degree to which something is real
is the degree to which it's knowable.
If it robustly embodies being, such as a universal,
it's very knowable.
If it is a fleeting, imperfect appearance,
it has only very limited knowability.
This is how Plato's going to deal with it.
It's not all or nothing.
It's not black and white, real or unreal.
We don't always mean the same thing
when we say something is real, and so we don't always
mean the same thing when we say we know something.
Understanding, getting more exact, more clear, more precise
about what we're seeing requires that we understand
that there are degrees of reality
and corresponding degrees of knowability.
And that's what the divided line is all about.
The lowest rung of the divided line is illusion.
This is the mode of knowing, illusion.
And the object of illusion is confused appearances.
We don't know what we're looking at.
And that can be a chaotic dissolution of self.
It could be that we just have no idea what we're looking at.
Say, a person who's blind from birth and then
that has an operation and suddenly see as an adult--
very often, they say, take these eyes back out,
because I'm going to go crazy.
I have this whole new category of sensation
that's completely alien to me and it's completely
disorganizing my world.
We're now smart enough to realize
that if we're going to give vision to an adult who
has never seen before, we bloody well better
put them through some extensive training as to how
to figure out all this visual input.
People sometimes to experience this level of confusion
when their concepts about how the world works fall apart.
They have a problem where, say, their culture has
been overrun by another culture.
Or people they believe in have been discredited.
Or you've had the same job for 40 years--
it's all you know how to do-- and you get laid off.
It's like my world has fallen apart.
I honestly don't understand what I'm looking at.
I can't make sense of it.
There are two things we can do, basically, Plato says.
We can make up stories, which he says
is the lowest counterfeit of knowledge.
I don't know what I'm looking at, so just make up a story,
because I can't stand the anxiety of saying I don't know.
Or I can say I don't know.
And if I say I don't know, then I'm
beginning to look for explanations,
and I'm moving up on the divided line, to the level of belief.
Beliefs may have degrees of reasonability
or unreasonability, depending upon how conscientious you
are about holding your beliefs up to scrutiny.
Our beliefs concern objects of perception,
the things that are presented to us by the senses.
We begin to form, as David Hume puts it, mental habits.
I never sat down and thought about inductive reasoning
or the laws of nature.
But I just have certain habits I form because my experiences had
certain regularities in it.
And we'll talk about that more when
we talk about the problem of induction.
But at least I'm able to form beliefs.
It may be very difficult to dislodge me out of those habits
if I don't realize that they are simply habits,
that they are simply opinions-- opinions based on consistencies
in my experience.
And those consistencies may, in fact,
be due to the limitations of what I've experienced.
This is the whole realm of becoming-- the realm of things
that come into being and pass away.
It's the sensible realm, sensible in the sense
of meaning that it's what's presented
by the senses-- sensation and perception, the things that
come into being and pass away and are
imperfect and impermanent.
We can only have opinion in this realm.
We get to that point, and in fact, we
are now doing something differently.
There's not a divided line here because there
are two separate worlds, but rather, at this point,
we realize that we want to do something differently.
We have formed habits of belief, but now I'm
going to ask questions.
If there are regularities in my experience,
how do I know what is a regularity, what
isn't a regularity, whether it's a special case, whether it's
not a special case?
Both common sense and science require
us to look beyond our simple habits of what we expect
the world to be like and ask, what kind
of lawful relationships underlie those regularities?
We do mathematics.
We do experimental science.
We do all kinds of things.
We study logic.
We look for patterns.
We start looking for the patterns themselves
and trying to describe the patterns.
We're doing something different now.
We've moved from the realm of the senses
to the realm of the intellect.
And we're saying, you know what?
The senses are very good sailors,
but we need to put the navigator in charge.
I hope you remember all that material at this point.
We're looking for lawful relationships,
because that allows us not only to understand
but also predict what may be coming up.
It allows us to have more ability
to navigate our lives, to steer our lives, because we can say,
you know what?
This pattern leads to these results very commonly
in my experience.
Maybe I should do something different.
There is a poem that I used to give to my class
when I taught a class on Socrates that someone gave
to me that was part of her recovery program.
And I can't recite it verbatim, but essentially, it says,
I walk down the street.
I fall in a hole.
I feel sorry for myself.
It's everybody else's fault.
It takes a long time to scramble out of the hole.
I walk down the same street.
I fall in the same hole.
It's still not my fault, but I stop complaining,
and I climb back out.
I walk down the same street.
I see the same hole.
And yet, I fall into it.
And I realize I chose to do that.
I climb back out of the hole.
I walk down the street, and I step around the hole.
And it ends with, I decide to find a different street.
pretty good, huh?
Well, that's essentially a very good illustration
of what we're doing when we moved from simply having habits
to inquiring about what lawful relationships underlie
the things that we experience.
And once we understand what lawful relationships underlie
what we experience, we realize that there
are other possibilities.
We can make choices.
At some point, we may, if we continue to be curious,
ask ourselves what are these laws about?
What are these laws of?
We're just saying there are patterns.
But why are there patterns?
How do we understand-- what is the subject
matter of mathematics?
What is the subject matter of logic?
That's how some people, including Russell,
like to put it.
And the answer that is universals.
I read an amazing book by Roger Penrose,
who's actually the person who developed
the idea of black holes prior to Stephen Hawking doing it.
And then the two of them worked together
to elaborate the theory.
I believe he still is the head of mathematical physics
at Oxford University.
The book was called The Emperor's New Mind.
And actually, the main thrust of the book
is that Penrose thinks it is mathematically unlikely
that consciousness can be reduced purely
to a system of algorithms because of the limitations
of what algorithms can and can't do.
A good deal of that book, Penrose is saying,
you know what?
Actually, the thing we need to understand
is that mathematics and physics are really
all about universals.
And he says, point blank, and the person
who really understood that was Plato.
And like many mathematicians and many physicists
who have ever really wondered, what really ultimately
is the subject matter of what I'm doing,
suddenly, we see Plato in a whole new light
and say, oh my god, this guy was onto it.
This guy hit a bull's eye.
At some point, if you pursue the notion of universals,
you come to, as Plato puts it, the experience of the good.
That pyramid of universals reaches its peak in being,
which is beyond language, beyond conceptualization.
It simply has to be experienced.
The degree to which different levels of reality, if you will,
participate in that universal being
is the degree to which they are real.
And the degree to which they are real
is the degree to which they are knowable.
This is amazing stuff.
If you stop and analyze it in detail,
Plato has made probably half a dozen
major intellectual breakthroughs in just this piece
The Republic, things that would change the way Westerners think
about the world and how we understand
it right through modern times.
But ever the student of Socrates, Plato
gets to this point and says, you know what?
We're not done.
What's the point of all of this metaphysics and epistemology
if we don't turn it around and go back and say,
so what difference does this make in how I live my life?
And that's where he introduces the allegory of the cave, which
we'll talk about next.