7 Jul 2018

Dupréel (1.2) La consistance et la probabilité constructive, sect 1.2, ‘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”

 

1.2

Les consistance des êtres

 

 

 

Brief summary:

(1.2.1) We will first think about sensible beings in space and time, and then we will turn next to an examination of all things that, although being neither spatial nor temporal, can nonetheless still be considered as beings of some sort. (1.2.2) The consistency of a being is its capacity to maintain its identity throughout the variations that result from its relations with other beings. All beings possess some degree of consistency. (1.2.3) A unified object cannot be oppositionally divided against itself; for, then it is no longer a unified, self-same object but is rather a pairing of separate things. This means that everything in a thing’s constitution must somehow be part of its consistency. It therefore cannot be something that would have preexisted its consistency; for, suppose there was such a part that existed in the thing before it had consistency. That means the thing would not have been able to endure and thus that element would not have endured as part of that thing. Also, a thing can have nothing in its constitution that is foreign to its consistency. For, any such component would have to have its own consistency and thus its own separate identity and therefore be a haphazard companion to the thing rather than an actual component of it. (1.2.4) We should not regard a thing as being isolated from everything that lies outside it. For, the thing has undergone numerous alterations that rather than having destroyed it instead have contributed to its capacity to resist other potential variations. (1.2.5) These “vicissitudes” or “alterations” result from the influence of the other beings that it happens to encounter in the universal torrent of accidents, causing alterations from prior states no matter how small. (1.2.6) Another fundamental property of a thing, in addition to it having consistency, is that its consistency itself varies in degree within certain limits. All encounters with other beings will cause some variation of degree in its consistency, increasing or diminishing it. (1.2.7) A body comes to know and evaluate its own consistency, and it tries to more or less know (often through guesswork) what it is that is causing its consistency to vary, in order to better grasp its possible or probable challenges. (1.2.8) Our common sense is right that consistency is the mark of a being, but it misleads us into thinking that to be a real being this consistency must be absolute. Rather, whenever common sense would have us regard something as a “real” being as absolutely distinct from its appearances is really a matter of noticing that there are conditions under which the thing is more consistent compared to other conditions when it is under greater variance. For example, we are rowing a boat, and when the oar is out of water it looks straight and when it is in the water it looks bent. We come to regard the oar as straight as the “real” oar and the oar as bent as the “false appearance” of the oar. But in fact, even the oar as straight varies somewhat depending on the observer’s perspective. It is just that out of the water it has a greater degree of consistency than when going into the water. (1.2.9) The subject-object distinction is also really a matter of relative difference between more and less consistent. Even the subject herself undergoes great variation. (1.2.10) Knowing things is a matter of having information about their degrees of consistency and of the factors that vary this degree. (1.2.11) So we should not begin by observing things under a mode that considers them somehow in their self-isolation, frozen at some specific time and place. Rather, we should use a mode of observation that sees primarily the indefinite multiplicity of intermixing and interacting beings that reciprocally alter one another through their encounters and combinations. What is most primary here are the multiple and unannounced encounters that combine the variable consistencies themselves, which constitute the interacting beings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.2.1

[Sensible Beings and Other Beings]

 

1.2.2

[Consistency as the Maintenance of Identity Throughout Variations Resulting from Interactions]

 

1.2.3

[The Thing’s Constitution as Excluding Anything Not Involved with Its Consistency]

 

1.2.4

[The Non-Isolation of Things. Their Developing Immunities Through Modificatory Interactions]

 

1.2.5

[Changes in the Things]

 

1.2.6

[The Increase and Decrease of the Thing’s Degree of Consistency on Account of Interactions]

 

1.2.7

[Assessing the Causes of the Variations in Consistency]

 

1.2.8

[Relative Consistency Illustrated: The Oar Bent Underwater]

 

1.2.9

[Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Consistency]

 

1.2.10

[Knowledge as Information About Consistency and About Its Factors of Variability]

 

1.2.11

[Being as Multiple, Reciprocally Consistency-Modifying Encountering]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

 

1.2.1

[Sensible Beings and Other Beings]

 

(p.7: “On raisonnera d’abord sur ... qualifié comme un certain être.”)

 

[We will first think about sensible beings in space and time, and then we will turn next to an examination of all things that, although being neither spatial nor temporal, can nonetheless still be considered as beings of some sort.]

 

[Recall from section 1.1.9 that instead of philosophy using its oppositional contraries, foremost of which being Being and Non-Being, we will substitute a notion more capable of dealing with diversity and relativity, namely, consistency. Dupréel says now that we will first think about sensible beings in space and time, and then we will turn next to an examination of all things that, although being neither spatial nor temporal, can nonetheless still be considered as beings of some sort.]

On raisonnera d’abord sur les êtres sensibles, dans l’espace et le temps, et l’on portera ensuite l’examen sur tout ce qui, sans être spatial ni temporel, peut néanmoins être qualifié comme un certain être.

(7)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.2

[Consistency as the Maintenance of Identity Throughout Variations Resulting from Interactions]

 

(p.7: “La consistance d’un être ...degré de consistance.”)

 

[The consistency of a being is its capacity to maintain its identity throughout the variations that result from its relations with other beings. All beings possess some degree of consistency.]

 

[(ditto)]

La consistance d’un être est la capacité de conserver son identité à travers les vicissitudes qui résultent de ses rapports avec les autres êtres. Tout corps est pourvu d’un certain degré de consistance.

(7)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.3

[The Thing’s Constitution as Excluding Anything Not Involved with Its Consistency]

 

(p.7: “Au fait, c’est cela même ... qu’adventice et non constitutionnel.”)

 

[A unified object cannot be oppositionally divided against itself; for, then it is no longer a unified, self-same object but is rather a pairing of separate things. This means that everything in a thing’s constitution must somehow be part of its consistency. It therefore cannot be something that would have preexisted its consistency; for, suppose there was such a part that existed in the thing before it had consistency. That means the thing would not have been able to endure and thus that element would not have endured as part of that thing. Also, a thing can have nothing in its constitution that is foreign to its consistency. For, any such component would have to have its own consistency and thus its own separate identity and therefore be a haphazard companion to the thing rather than an actual component of it.]

 

[In fact, the very constitution of the being is its consistency. For, we will never discover in a body something that is prior and foreign to all that permits the being to endure throughout any contact that may affect it. (I do not have this right, so I am going to make some guesses here. We say that the thing has consistency, which is the factor that allows it to maintain its identity throughout its variations from modificatory interactions. Now we try to suppose that there is some part of the thing’s constitution which existed before this consistency came into play. But then, that other element of its constitution would not have survived as part of that thing, because the thing would not have survived if it lacked its preservational factor. Similarly, there cannot be a component of the thing’s constitution that is foreign to its consistency. This one is harder for me to guess about. But maybe the idea is similarly that any such element somehow is able to entirely disintegrate the thing, but I am not sure how. At any rate, perhaps the next point is related to that. Whatever in the thing that is in the process of destroying it is only something extraneous that by chance has entered into the thing, and it cannot be part of its actual constitution. The thinking here might be that a unified thing cannot be divided against itself.)]

Au fait, c’est cela même qui le constitue, car jamais on ne découvrira dans un corps quelque chose de préalable et d’étranger à tout ce qui lui permet de durer à travers tout contact qui puisse l’affecter. Ce qui dans son intérieur peut être en passe de le détruire, ne lui est qu’adventice et non constitutionnel.

(7)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.4

[The Non-Isolation of Things. Their Developing Immunities Through Modificatory Interactions]

 

(p.7: “On remarquera qu’ici l’être ... de résistance aux vicissitudes éventuelles.”)

 

[We should not regard a thing as being isolated from everything that lies outside it. For, the thing has undergone numerous alterations that rather than having destroyed it instead have contributed to its capacity to resist other potential variations.]

 

[(ditto)]

On remarquera qu’ici l’être n’est pas par lui-même isolé de tout extérieur, on ne le considérera jamais que dans un ensemble de vicissitudes qu’il a traversées, qui ne l’ont pas annihilé et qui, au contraire ont contribué à sa capacité de résistance aux vicissitudes éventuelles.

(7)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.5

[Changes in the Things]

 

(p.7-8: “Que sont ces « vicissitudes » ... si petites qu’elles puissent être.”)

 

[These “vicissitudes” or “alterations” result from the influence of the other beings that it happens to encounter in the universal torrent of accidents, causing alterations from prior states no matter how small.]

 

[We now wonder: what are these “vicissitudes” (or “alterations” as I have been calling them up to now) that all beings undergo? They are the results of the influence of the other beings that it happens to encounter in the universal torrent of accidents. All such contacts with other beings are mutual alterations from the prior states, no matter how small they may be.]

Que sont ces « vicissitudes » auxquelles tout être n’est jamais étranger ? Elles sont le fait d’autres êtres avec lesquels il lui arrive de se rencontrer dans le torrent universel des accidents. Tout ces | contacts sont en fait des altérations mutuelles par rapport à l’état antérieur, si petites qu’elles puissent être.

(7-8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.6

[The Increase and Decrease of the Thing’s Degree of Consistency on Account of Interactions

 

(p.8: “A cette propriété fondamentale de tout corps, ... accroissement ou diminution.”)

 

[Another fundamental property of a thing, in addition to it having consistency, is that its consistency itself varies in degree within certain limits. All encounters with other beings will cause some variation of degree in its consistency, increasing or diminishing it.]

 

[(ditto)]

A cette propriété fondamentale de tout corps, quoi qu’il ait de particulier, d’être pourvu d’un certain degré de consistance, s’ajoute le fait non moins fondamental que cette consistance peut varier en degré, au moins dans certaines limites. Toute rencontre avec d’autres êtres pourra entraîner quelque variation du degré de sa consistance, accroissement ou diminution.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.7

[Assessing the Causes of the Variations in Consistency]

 

(p.8: “Dans la connaissance d’un corps ... ses tribulations possibles ou probables.”)

 

[A body comes to know and evaluate its own consistency, and it tries to more or less know (often through guesswork) what it is that is causing its consistency to vary, in order to better grasp its possible or probable challenges.]

 

[(I think have this next part wrong, but I am guessing it is the following. A body comes to know and evaluate its own consistency, and it tries to more or less know (often through guesswork) what it is that is causing its consistency to vary in its efforts to grasp its possible or probable challenges.)]

Dans la connaissance d’un corps il entre pour une grande part l’appréciation de sa consistance et en plus celle, plus ou moins conjecturale, de ce qui est en état de la faire varier, c’est-à-dire des vues sur ses tribulations possibles ou probables.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.8

[Relative Consistency Illustrated: The Oar Bent Underwater]

 

(p.8: “Donnons tout de suite un exemple ... est substituée une différence variable. ”)

 

[Our common sense is right that consistency is the mark of a being, but it misleads us into thinking that to be a real being this consistency must be absolute. Rather, whenever common sense would have us regard something as a “real” being as absolutely distinct from its appearances is really a matter of noticing that there are conditions under which the thing is more consistent compared to other conditions when it is under greater variance. For example, we are rowing a boat, and when the oar is out of water it looks straight and when it is in the water it looks bent. We come to regard the oar as straight as the “real” oar and the oar as bent as the “false appearance” of the oar. But in fact, even the oar as straight varies somewhat depending on the observer’s perspective. It is just that out of the water it has a greater degree of consistency than when going into the water.]

 

[(I will need to make more guesses, sorry, so please consult the text below. The main idea seems to be the following. There is no perfectly self-consistent being. Rather, a being is more or less self-consistent, depending the the circumstances. We consider an oar under two sets of conditions: {1} it is in the air before us, {2} it is submerged halfway into the water, making it appear bent. The temptation is to say that the oar as straight is the “real” oar in an absolute sense, and the oar as bent is one of its illusory appearances. However, even the oar as straight appears differently from the various perspectives of its multiple observers. It is only simply a little more self-consistent than the oar as bent, which in a more obvious way demonstrates this perspectival variation, because the angle of the bending will vary more apparently depending on the point of view. So while it is true that the common sense sees consistency as the mark of a being, it is wrong to absolutize that consistency and thereby make an absolute distinction between real and appearance. There instead are degrees on consistency, with none being absolute.)]

Donnons tout de suite un exemple du bénéfice de ce passage de l’être selon le sens commun, qui en fait un absolu à l’être en tant que consistant : la rame, vue droite telle qu’elle est hors de l’eau, est, pour le sens commun, seule un être réel ou véritable, tandis que plongée et paraissant coudée, ce n’est là qu’une « fausse apparence ». On retiendra au contraire qu’il n’y a ici que deux degrés de consistance. Forte chez la rame droite, le peu de consistance est extrême chez la rame coudée, puisque cette forme varie immédiatement selon tout changement de position et de l’objet et de l’observateur ; la rame droite au contraire résiste à tout déplacement, et impose son apparence à la multiplicité des sujets percevants. A une opposition irréductible, réalité-apparence est substituée une différence variable.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.9

[Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Consistency]

 

(p.8: “De la même manière se résoudra ... comme des moments de l’aperception.”)

 

[The subject-object distinction is also really a matter of relative difference between more and less consistent. Even the subject herself undergoes great variation.]

 

[(Again I am probably misreading the text here, so please check the quotation. It might be the following. We have been elaborating this notion that consistency admits of degrees of variation. Something is never absolutely consistent, but its degree of consistency can be important when related to lesser degrees of consistency. Here this is applied to the subject-object distinction and the problems it normally causes us conceptually. We should not think of these being two absolutely distinct things, different in kind, one being the subject and the other the object. Rather, what determines something as subject and another as object is a comparison of consistencies, with the lesser consistent one being the subject and the more consistent one being the object. A subject knows her own vicissitudes, which vary according the circumstances of the encounters with other beings, and although there are a number of different subjects that are connected by one continuity of experience, one subject for each moment of apperception, it is the relative consistency spanning throughout those variations that is really the subject.)]

De la même manière se résoudra l’impasse logique du subjectif et de l’objectif. Au lieu de s’opposer irréductiblement en perdant toute prise sur l’intervalle, les deux termes se rangent sur l’échelle de la consistance. Ce qui n’est que subjectif est dépendant de toutes les vicissitudes du sujet isolé dont c’est la connaissance, éminemment variable selon l’état, les moyens et les rencontres de celui-ci, le réputer subjectif est donc lui reconnaître un degré de consistance plus faible, que n’apparaîtra tout objet, aperçu comme conservant son identité à travers la diversité des sujets percevants comme des moments de l’aperception.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.10

[Knowledge as Information About Consistency and About Its Factors of Variability]

 

(p.: “Tout progrès dans la connaissance ... de la variation de ce degré.”)

 

[Knowing things is a matter of having information about their degrees of consistency and of the factors that vary this degree.]

 

[(ditto)]

All progress in the knowledge of things appears to not be far from the being reduced to information on the degree of their consistency and of the possible or probable conditions of the variation of this degree.

Tout progrès dans la connaissance des choses paraît n’être pas loin de se ramener à des renseignements sur le degré de leur consistance et sur les conditions possibles ou probables de la variation de ce degré.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

1.2.11

[Being as Multiple, Reciprocally Consistency-Modifying Encountering]

 

(p.8-9: “Le point de départ de l’observation ... les consistances multiples et variables”)

 

[So we should not begin by observing things under a mode that considers them somehow in their self-isolation, frozen at some specific time and place. Rather, we should use a mode of observation that sees primarily the indefinite multiplicity of intermixing and interacting beings that reciprocally alter one another through their encounters and combinations. What is most primary here are the multiple and unannounced encounters that combine the variable consistencies themselves, which constitute the interacting beings.]

 

[(ditto)]

Le point de départ de l’observation en général ce n’est donc pas | la considération d’un être isolé, en lui-même, cliché à tel ou tel endroit, fixé à tel moment, c’est la multiplicité indéfinie des êtres mêlés et mobiles susceptibles de s’altérer réciproquement par leurs rencontres et leurs combinaisons. Le donné ce n’est pas l’être, c’est la réciprocité des êtres dans leurs rencontres multiples et inopinées. Ce qui se combine, ce sont les consistances multiples et variables.

(8-9)

[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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