1 Jul 2018

Dupréel (1.1) La consistance et la probabilité constructive, sect 1.1, ‘Les contraires’, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is summary and not translation. Bracketed commentary is my own, as is any boldface. Proofreading is incomplete, so typos are present, including in the quotations. Please consult the original text to be sure about the contents. Also, I welcome corrections to my interpretations, because I am not especially good with French.]

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Eugène Dupréel

 

La consistance et la probabilité constructive

 

Part 1

“La consistance”

 

1.1

Les contraires

 

 

 

Brief summary:

(1.1.1) The Pre-Socratic philosophers endowed their thinking with contraries, like the hot and the cold, movement and rest, the continuous and the discontinuous, the even and the odd, the good and the bad, and being and non-being. (1.1.2) The natural sciences moved beyond these contraries by dealing more with degrees of variation, and the biological sciences by means of systematic classifications. However, philosophy, especially metaphysics and ethics, to this very day still holds on to universal contraries that it ultimately grounds all its positions in, which amount primarily to the following: one-many, good-bad, subject-object, and above all, Being–Non-Being. (1.1.3) Even when philosophy hopes to escape Parmenides’ fundamental contrary of Being and Non-Being, it still becomes central in philosophy’s attempts to {1} arrive at the real behind appearances, to {2} arrive at the thing in itself underneath our practical engagements with the thing, and to {3} touch the absolute, fundamental value underlying all practical, illusory, or conventional values. (1.1.4) Philosophy should find a better conception to substitute for this contrary of Being and Not-Being. (1.1.5) Such radical oppositions found in philosophical contraries are not entirely useless; for, we often make sharp dichotomous distinctions when needing to make practical decisions. For example, when buying a car, we must make a strong distinction between the one chosen and the others we did not select. (1.1.6) So in order to act deliberately in an effective way, we need to impose on given data the form of a system of two contraries (1.1.7) Oppositional contraries are conceptually inevitable for two reasons. Anything that we might assert or affirm can be opposed contrarily by its negation. And many concepts have built-in implicationally their opposites. For example, to the fullness of matter is opposed the void, whose very definition is basid on its opposite, namely, it is the abscence of fullness. (1.1.8) But despite the practical usefulness of oppositional contraries, philosophy still should not use them in metaphysics under the faulty assumption that they express the fundamental nature of things or as being needed to comprehend that nature in order to effectively choose appropriate actions. (1.1.9) Instead of philosophy using oppositional contraries, foremost of which being Being and Non-Being, we substitute a notion more capable of dealing with diversity and relativity, namely, consistency.

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.1.1

[Contraries in the PreSocratics]

 

1.1.2

[Philosophy as Still Depending on Contraries]

 

1.1.3

[The Seeming Inevitability of Parmenides’ Contrary, Being and Non-Being]

 

1.1.4

[Finding a Substitute Concept]

 

1.1.5

[The Practicality of Contraries]

 

1.1.6

[Dichotomy and Deliberation]

 

1.1.7

[Conceptuality and Contrariety]

 

1.1.8

[Philosophy as Wrong to Rely So Fundamentally on Oppositional Contraries]

 

1.1.9

[Consistency vs. Contrarity]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

 

1.1.1

[Contraries in the PreSocratics]

 

(p.5: “Les premiers représentants de la pensée occidentale ... l’être et le non-être. ”)

 

[The Pre-Socratic philosophers endowed their thinking with contraries, like the hot and the cold, movement and rest, the continuous and the discontinuous, the even and the odd, the good and the bad, and being and non-being.]

 

[The earliest Western philosophers (the Ionians, Pythagoreans, and Eleatics) did not distinguish the fields of science and philosophy, and they endowed their thinking with what have come to be called contraries, such as the luminous and the dark, the high and the low, the cold and the hot, the heavy and the light, movement and rest, and also: the continuous and the discontinuous, the full and the empty, the even and the odd, the good and the bad, and being and non-being.]

Les premiers représentants de la pensée occidentale, Ioniens, Pythagoriciens, Éléates, ont donné à leur spéculation, science et philosophie encore confondues, la forme d’une opposition de couples de notions que depuis lors on appelle les contraires (τὰ ἐναντία), tels que le lumineux et l’obscur, le haut et le bas, le froid et le chaud, le pesant et le léger, le mouvement et le repos, mais aussi le continu et le discontinu, le plein et le vide, le pair et l’impair, le bien et le mal, l’être et le non-être.

(5)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.2

[Philosophy as Still Depending on Contraries]

 

(p.5: “Si les sciences de la nature ont assez tôt commencé...enfin et surtout Être-Non-être”)

 

[The natural sciences moved beyond these contraries by dealing more with degrees of variation, and the biological sciences by means of systematic classifications. However, philosophy, especially metaphysics and ethics, to this very day still holds on to universal contraries that it ultimately grounds all its positions in, which amount primarily to the following: one-many, good-bad, subject-object, and above all, Being–Non-Being.]

 

[The natural sciences replaced this radical distinction between two contraries with more relative notions involving variations of degree, as with movement, heat, gravity and so on. This allows for measure and calculation. Also, the life sciences progressed by means of systematic classifications. Nonetheless, by contrast, philosophy, metaphysics and ethics especially, has progressed no further.  And even to today, philosophy holds on to positions grounded on universal contraries that include primarily: one-many, good-bad, subject-object, and above all, Being–Non-Being.]

Si les sciences de la nature ont assez tôt commencé de remplacer la distinction radicale de deux contraires par des notions plus rela­tives en la ramenant à une variation en degré dont est capable une notion unique, mouvement, chaleur pesanteur etc., intro­duisant ainsi la fécondité de la mesure et du calcul, si de leur côté les sciences de la vie ont progressé par des classifications systématiques, force est de constater, par contre, que la philosophie proprement dite, métaphysique ou morale est démeurée, et jusqu’à nos jours inclusivement, attachée à des positions à base de contraires universels, « exigences » de la pensée dont les couples finissent par se ramener plus ou moins explicitement à ceux-ci : un-multiple, bien-mal, sujet-objet, enfin et surtout Être-Non-être. 

(5)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.3

[The Seeming Inevitability of Parmenides’ Contrary, Being and Non-Being]

 

(p5-6.: “C’est à Parménide que revient l’honneur d’avoir expressément...sous les valeurs illusoires ou convenues”)

 

[Even when philosophy hopes to escape Parmenides’ fundamental contrary of Being and Non-Being, it still becomes central in philosophy’s attempts to {1} arrive at the real behind appearances, to {2} arrive at the thing in itself underneath our practical engagements with the thing, and to {3} touch the absolute, fundamental value underlying all practical, illusory, or conventional values.]

 

[Parmenides especially performed this philosophical task of reduction to contraries, ultimately arriving at Being and Non-Being. And even when philosophy wanted to avoid the contraries of Parmenides, it was nonetheless was unable to definitively dismiss this formula on account of its obviousness to common sense. We find this contrary of Being and Non-Being at the foundation of all efforts {1} to arrive at the real though true or false appearances, {2} to arrive at the the thing in itself buried underneath our higher faculties’ practical engagements with it, and {3} to touch the absolute, fundamental value underlying all practical, illusory, or conventional values.]

C’est à Parménide que revient l’honneur d’avoir expressément, avec une intrépidité de pensée demeurée inégalée, ramené toute opposition de termes contraires à la seule alternative de l’Être ou du non-être, mais l’on peut dire que si la postérité philosophique s’est évertuée à éviter les contradictions devant lesquelles ce grand promoteur ne reculait pas, elle n’a pu se résoudre à écarter définitivement cette formule elle-même, sous l’empire de son | évidence toute de sens commun. On la retrouve au fond de tous les efforts pour atteindre au réel à travers les apparences vraies ou fausses, à la chose en soi sous les sédiments de l’emploi utilitaire de nos facultés toucher la valeur fondamentale, absolue, sous les valeurs illusoires ou convenues.

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.4

[Finding a Substitute Concept]

 

(p.: “Le problème est en réalité de trouver ...des oppositions toutes qualitatives”)

 

[Philosophy should find a better conception to substitute for this contrary of Being and Not-Being.]

 

[The problem here is finding a substitute for this cumbersome contrary that will definitively relieve it of its traditional philosophical role, in a way similar to how calculation and measurement liberated physics from the exclusive reign of qualitative oppositions.]

Le problème est en réalité de trouver de cet encombrant contraire un substitut qui l’écarte définitivement de son rôle philosophique traditionnel, comme le calcul et la mesure ont délivré la physique du règne exclusif des oppositions toutes qualitatives.

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.5

[The Practicality of Contraries]

 

(p.6: “Au reste la persistance du succès de la philosophie ...refoulant tous ses concurrents dans l’unité de la défaite.”)

 

[Such radical oppositions found in philosophical contraries are not entirely useless; for, we often make sharp dichotomous distinctions when needing to make practical decisions. For example, when buying a car, we must make a strong distinction between the one chosen and the others we did not select.]

 

[So philosophy is based on radical oppositions, and to a certain extent it has found this to be philosophically fruitful. For in fact we cannot reject all such general oppositions as being false or unuseful. We resort to them often when needing to make a difficult choice. For example, when buying a watch or car, in the end we will make a dichotomous distinction between the one selected and all the rest.]

Au reste la persistance du succès de la philosophie à base d’oppositions radicales s’explique et dans une certaine mesure se justifie, car il ne saurait être question de rejeter toutes les oppositions générales comme fausses ou inutiles. Étaler un problème sous la forme de deux termes qui s’opposent est un moyen d’approcher de la conclusion que l’on a en vue. Tout être conscient et capable de délibérer devant une résolution à prendre est conduit à faire cette réduction au moment ultime qui précède sa décision. Si, par exemple, l’acheteur d’une montre ou d’une voiture a le choix entre plusieurs acquisitions possibles, la fin de son opération consistera en une dichotomie unique dont l’un des termes réunit tous les objets repoussés et dont l’autre est le seul choisi ; il y a là une opposition radicale, une réduction absolue à deux termes que l’on retrouve encore dans les cas du premier à la course, refoulant tous ses concurrents dans l’unité de la défaite.

(6)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.6

[Dichotomy and Deliberation]

 

(p.6: “Cette dichotomie finale, forme universelle de l’action ...une des conditions de fécondité de l’action délibérée. ”)

 

[So in order to act deliberately in an effective way, we need to impose on given data the form of a system of two contraries]

 

[A judge is even required by law to make a final dichotomous decision even in the face of the uncertainties of the case being decided. In order for us to act deliberately, we need to impose on given data the form of a system of two contraries.]

Cette dichotomie finale, forme universelle de l’action délibérée est même imposée par la loi, qui oblige le juge à proclamer sa sentence en dépit des incertitudes qu’il peut n’avoir pas entièrement surmontées. Appliquer à tout donné quelconque la forme d’un système de deux contraires est donc en fin de compte une des conditions de fécondité de l’action délibérée.

(6)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.7

[Conceptuality and Contrariety]

 

(p.6: “Et faire ainsi est toujours possible ...l’absence de certains caractères du plein.”)

 

[Oppositional contraries are conceptually inevitable for two reasons. Anything that we might assert or affirm can be opposed contrarily by its negation. And many concepts have built-in implicationally their opposites. For example, to the fullness of matter is opposed the void, whose very definition is based on its opposite, namely, it is the absence of fullness.]

 

[And conceptually speaking, oppositional pairings are inevitable. For, whatever can be asserted or affirmed can be opposed by its negation. And any notion can automatically evoke its contrary. So to the fullness of matter is opposed the void, which is simply defined as the abscence of certain features of the full.]

Et faire ainsi est toujours possible car à tout ce qui peut s’affirmer une négation peut être opposée. Au besoin le second terme d’un couple de contraires est suscité comme notion complémentaire du premier, celui qu’on a discerné d’abord ; ainsi à la plénitude de la matière on opposera le vide, dont on ne définit nul autre caractère que l’absence de certains caractères du plein.

(6)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.8

[Philosophy as Wrong to Rely So Fundamentally on Oppositional Contraries]

 

(p.6-7: “Quoi qu’il en soit, si souvent utile ...d’agir efficace­ment en s’y conformant désormais. ”)

 

[But despite the practical usefulness of oppositional contraries, philosophy still should not use them in metaphysics under the faulty assumption that they express the fundamental nature of things or as being needed to comprehend that nature in order to effectively choose appropriate actions.]

 

[So yes, we often reason effectively on the basis of the opposition of two contraries, as it can prove highly useful and practical. Nonetheless, all philosophy, and metaphysics especially, is still wrong for drawing some of the most important conclusions from universal contraries either by regarding such universal contraries as expressing the nature of the fundamental constitution of things or as expressing the sort of thinking needed to grasp this nature for the sake of committing actions conforming to it.]

Quoi qu’il en soit, si souvent utile, si pratiquement indispensable que soit le raisonnement à base d’opposition de deux con- | traires, il faut reprocher à la philosophie de tous les temps et surtout à la métaphysique, d’avoir abusé du procédé en espérant tirer les conclusions les plus importantes, des couples de contraires universels, c’est-à-dire considérés comme exprimant soit la constitution fondamentale de la nature des choses, soit la constitution de la pensée attachée à connaître cette nature afin d’agir efficacement en s’y conformant désormais.

(7-8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.9

[Consistency vs. Contrariety]

 

(p.7: “La vanité de cette recherche d’une sagesse unique et démontrée...à cette fin suffisamment définée, la notion de consistance.”)

 

[Instead of philosophy using oppositional contraries, foremost of which being Being and Non-Being, we substitute a notion more capable of dealing with diversity and relativity, namely, consistency.]

 

[Philosophy should follow science, and rather then seek simple oppositional pairs, it should do justice to the diversities with which it is contending and employ concepts more capable of handling relativities. Dupréel proposes that instead of the fundamental oppositional contrary Being and Non-Being, we substitute the notion of consistency.]

La vanité de cette recherche d’une sagesse unique et démontrée s’avère par la diversité et par les recommencements des philosophies qui l’ont entreprise. Sans le démontrer ici plus expressément, nous dirons qu’il est temps de proposer pour la philosophie d’achever d’accomplir la réforme dont a profité depuis si longtemps la science, en substituant à des notions radicales antagonistes, des notions capables de ne s’opposer à aucune relativité. Allant droit au plus fondamental des classiques couples de contraires, l’Etre et le non-être, nous lui substituerons, à cette fin suffisamment définée, la notion de consistance.

(7)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dupréel, Eugène. (1961). La consistance et la probabilité constructive. (Classe des lettres et des sciences morales et politiques 55, no.2). Brussels: Académie Royale de Belgique.

PDF at:

http://www.academieroyale.be/fr/les-publications-memoires-detail/oeuvres-2/la-consistance-et-la-probabilite-constructive/.\

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