Unreal Nature

April 18, 2013

First Principle

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:01 am

… There can only be contradiction if there is simultaneity. If there is no simultaneity then a contradiction may exist. Then time, the order of the successive, enters the implied order of the contradictory. Reverse the proposition again and you have: if there is a contradictory, then there is time.

This is from The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies by Michel Serres (2008, 1985):

… Logic. — The principle of reason acknowledges some existing thing by affirming that it exists more than it doesn’t exist. And as a singular entity, rather than as nothing. Now it could be said that existing, more or less, is a redundancy and repeats, using a verb and adverb, a discrepancy or excess, a deviation from a state of equilibrium. Existence expresses this deviation, since the radical expresses the static, and more or less vaguely quantifies the counterweight. As if the beam of the balance were not quite level. Existence indicates a state outside the zero state, or better still, a state outside states. On the other hand, Greek science, named episteme since its beginnings, expresses equilibrium through this word, a sort of state above a state. The word system roughly expresses the same thing. The traditional opposition, the relative strangeness of existence and the episteme, become clearly legible. The general something or other is a deviation that science reduces to zero. Rigorous or precise knowledge fashions the scales of existence. Or its state. Its reduction to equilibrium. Its abolition. Science considers existence as a counterweight, a defect. A balance between accuracy and justice, between equilibrium and moral and mortal politics. Existence then functions in a different mode to that of science.

I think, therefore I exist, a contradiction in terms. I think: I weight, I press down on a plinth, base, seat — I am immobile and fixed, at rest; I exist, here I am pulled off balance, off-balance in relation to rest, almost mobile and literally disquieted. In other words, a tautology: I weigh therefore the needle of the balance moves.

Aristotle posits the identity principle as the founding necessity of science. From its first formulation, this principle is defined in relation to contradiction. It is impossible for the same attribute to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same subject, in the same relationship, without prejudicing all the other determinations which can be added to deal with the other logical difficulties. Let us forget for a moment the attributive character of the Aristotelian definition and say with Leibniz, for example, what is A cannot be non-A, at the same time and in the same relationship, etc. Always the double negation, identity as the impossible contemporaneity of itself and its contrary, or else its contradictory.

… A curious necessity that can only be imposed in a universe made up entirely of conditions. The identity principle comes into play if, and only if, other identities — time, relationship, determinations in general — are observed. A curious definition because it requires as a condition the very thing defined. Could the first principle be merely a begging of the question? A circular identity?

Thus we can go back to Aristotle and Leibniz again by saying: in the same circumstances, it is impossible for A to be non-A. It can immediately be observed that the famous principle, the universality or supposed necessity of which is eroded under the pressure of conditions, borders on another more familiar one, that of determinism: in the same circumstances the same causes produce the same effects. Now, as no-one knows the status of causes and effects, as the philosophy of causality can just as easily be put aside as the attributive logic discussed above, it remains that: in the same circumstances, the same x produces the same y. Or rather: through the identity of the circumstances, there is identity, or stability of experience, the possibility of repeating it at will. Or: through identical allocations, experiments are invariant. Thus in both cases, physical here and metaphysical there, the formal identity of any A, or factual or phenomenal identity, or that of experience, only take place under the express condition of reducing the set, or a set of what surrounds them, to the identical. In both cases, the identity of the circumstances is a primary consideration or condition, in theory as in practice. Without it, no logic, no manipulation or philosophy.

… Let us suppose, [Aristotle] said, that there exists a multiplicity of states of things, and that these states do not include anything opposed to them: it can then be said that they exist simultaneously. For Aristotle, contradiction or identity can only be defined with the minimal condition of simultaneity at the same time. Leibniz reverses Aristotle’s contention and defines the simultaneous as a state of things in which contradiction is neither present nor included. This reversal would appear to be conclusive.

It allows space and time to be defined. Not as conditions for these principles, but, on the contrary, as things produced by them. Space becomes the order of coexistence, the order of simultaneities, or the order of non-contradictions since they could not exist simultaneously. Conversely, time becomes the order of non-simultaneous things, which can therefore be contradictory. Those that were produced last year contain or imply opposite states of the same thing, in relation to those that are produced this year. It is sufficient to reverse the condition in order to produce it by the thing conditioned. There can only be contradiction if there is simultaneity. If there is no simultaneity then a contradiction may exist. Then time, the order of the successive, enters the implied order of the contradictory. Reverse the proposition again and you have: if there is a contradictory, then there is time. This is Hegel — who forgets in passing that the object can imply a contradictory, in time. It passes from the possible to the necessary and sufficient. And the dialectic begins ro produce history. On the cheap.

My most recent previous post from Serres’s book is here.

-Julie

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