What is wrong with dialectic? 辯證法錯在哪裏?

What is wrong with dialectic?



What is Dialectic?[1]


There is nothing we can imagine, however absurd or incredible,

that has not been maintained by one philosopher or another.

只要是我們能夠想象的, 無論如何荒謬或不可相信,  


Descartes 笛卡兒


The above motto can be generalized.  It applies not only to philosophers and philosophy, but throughout the realm of human thought and enterprises, to science, technology, engineering and politics.  上面的格言可以廣泛化。  不單指哲學家或哲學如此,所有人類思維與事業,以至科學,技術,工程與政治亦如是。(Page 312頁: line 7 行.)


…human thought tends to try out every conceivable solution for any problem with which it is faced….  The method by which a solution is approached is usually the same; it is the method of trial and error.  This fundamentally, is also the method used by living organisms in the process of adaptation.  It is clear that the success of this method depends very largely on the number and variety of the trials: the more we try, the more likely it is that one of our attempts will be successful.  (Page 312頁: line 13行.) 

面對任何困難問題,人類思維傾向于嘗試每一個可以想象的解決辦法。方法通常是: “嘗試與錯誤” 的方法.  生物適應環境過程基本上亦如此.  明顯可見, 這方法的成功甚賴于嘗試的次數和多樣化: 我們嘗試越多, 我們其中一個嘗試的成功機會就越大.


Men seem inclined to react to a problem either by putting forward some theory and clinging to it as long as they can (if it is erroneous they may even perish with it rather than give it up), or by fighting against such a theory, once they have seen its weakness.  (312: 23) 



If the method of trial and error is developed more and more consciously, then it begins to take on the characteristic features of ‘scientific method’, This method can briefly be described as follows.  Faced with a certain problem, the scientist offers, tentatively, some sort of solution—a theory.  This theory science accepts only provisionally, if at all; and it is most characteristic of the scientific method that scientists will spare no pains to criticize and test the theory in question.  (313: 8)

如果嘗試與錯誤的辦法越來越著意地發展,就開始形成 “科學方法”的特徵.此方法簡述如下.面對某困難問題,科學家臨時提議一個解決辦法,即一個理論.此理論,要是得到科學的接受,也只是臨時的接受.接著,這科學方法的最大特徵就是:科學家們就竭盡全力地批評與測驗該理論.


Criticizing and testing go hand in hand; the theory is criticized from very many different sides in order to bring out those points which may be vulnerable.  And the testing of the theory proceeds by exposing these vulnerable points to as severe an examination as possible. This, of course, is again a variant of the method of trial and error.  (313:14) 

批判與測驗是並肩進行的。 批判一個理論從很多不同方面進行,以便找出其弱點。測驗進行暴露這些弱點給與最嚴厲的考驗。這當然也是嘗試與錯誤的方法之一。


Theories are put forward tentatively and tried out. If the outcome of a test shows that the theory is erroneous, then it is eliminated; the method of trial and error is essentially a method of elimination.  Its success depends mainly on three conditions, namely, that sufficiently numerous (and ingenious) theories should be offered, that the theories offered should be sufficiently varied, and that sufficiently severe tests should be made.  In this way we may, if we are lucky, secure the survival of the fittest theory by elimination of those which are less fit.  (313: 18)

理論是不確定地提出來試驗。如果試驗的結果顯示該理論錯誤, 就除掉該理論; 嘗試與錯誤的方法基本上是除掉錯誤的方法。嘗試與錯誤方法的成功主要有三個條件:有足夠眾多(而且聰明)的理論提出來,提出來的理論充分多樣化而不相同,還要進行相當嚴厲的試驗. 這樣,運氣好的話,就從除掉弱的理論而得到最能適應而生存的理論.


…the struggle between an idea and its criticism or between a thesis and its antithesis would lead to the elimination of the thesis (or, perhaps of the antithesis) if it is not satisfactory; and that the competition of theories would lead to the adoption of new theories only if enough theories are at hand and are offered for trial.  (314: 26)



“Thus the interpretation in terms of the trial and error method may be said to be slightly wider than that in terms of dialectic.  It is not confined to a situation where only one thesis is offered to start with, and so it can easily be applied to situations where from the very beginning a number of different thesis are offered, independently of one another, and not only in such a way that the one is opposed to the other.  (page 314, line 31)



Confusing Language of Dialecticians. “We must be careful, for instance, about a number of metaphors used by dialecticians and unfortunately often taken much too seriously.  An example is the dialectical saying that the thesis ‘produces’ its antithesis.  Actually it is only our critical attitude which produces the antithesis, and where such an attitude is lacking—which often enough is the case—no antithesis will be produced.  (315: 29)

提防辯證家的隱喻文字,切勿認真。例如說正 ‘生’反。其實只是我們的審問明辨態度引生反辯。常常沒有這審問明辨態度也就不引生反辯理論。


“But the most important misunderstandings and muddles arise out of the loose way in which dialecticians speak about contradictions  (316: 6)



“…dialecticians conclude –wrongly as we shall see—that there is no need to avoid these fertile contradictions.  And they even assert that contradictions cannot be avoided, since they occur everywhere in the world.  (316: 23)



“Such an assertion amounts to an attack upon the so-called ‘law of contradiction’(or, more fully, upon the ‘law of the exclusion of contradictions’) of traditional logic, a law which asserts that two contradictory statements can never be true together, or that a statement consisting of the conjunction of two contradictory statements must always be rejected as false on purely logical grounds.  (316: 27)



“Dialecticians say that contradictions are fruitful, or fertile, or productive of progress, and we have admitted that this is, in a sense, true.  It is true, however, only so long as we are determined not to put up with contradictions, and to change any theory which involves contradictions; in other words never to accept a contradiction: it is solely due to this determination of ours that criticism, i.e. the pointing out of contradictions, induces us to change our theories, and thereby to progress.  (316: 42 –317: 3)

辯證家說矛盾產生豐富收成進步。其實是我們排除矛盾的決心去變更有矛盾的理論. 指出並批評判斷理論的矛盾,使我們變更理論而進步.


“But this means that if we are prepared to put up with contradictions, criticism, and with it all intellectual progress, must come to an end.  (317:13)

假若容許矛盾, 批評判斷就完蛋, 所有理智進步也完蛋.


“Thus we must tell the dialectician that he cannot have it both ways.  Either he is interested in contradictions because of their fertility: then he must not accept them.  Or he is prepared to accept them: then they will be barren, and rational criticism, discussion, and intellectual progress will be impossible. 


辯證家不能腳踏兩條船. 要茅盾產生豐富收成就要清除矛盾.若是容許矛盾就荒蕪不育;理智的批評, 討論, 與思維進步也不再可能.


“For it can easily be shown that if one were to accept contradictions then one would have to give up any kind of scientific activity: it would mean a complete breakdown of science.  This can be shown by proving that if two contradictory statements are admitted, any statement whatever must be admitted; for from a couple of contradictory statements any statement whatever can be validly inferred.  (317:26)

容許矛盾就要放棄所有科學活動, 科學也完全崩潰. 因爲接受兩個矛盾句子就要接受任何句子: 幾個矛盾句子就可以推証任何句子.


“We see from this that if a theory contains a contradiction, then it entails everything, and therefore, indeed, nothing.  A theory which adds to every information which it asserts also the negation of this information can give us not information at all.  A theory which involves a contradiction is therefore entirely useless as a theory.  (319: 41)

可見理論有矛盾, 就什麽都可以推証, 其實是什麽都沒有推証了.  理論所有的信息加上相反的信息就完全不給我們任何信息.  有矛盾的理論是完全沒用的理論.


“The acceptance of contradictions must lead here as everywhere to the end of criticism, and thus to the collapse of science.  (322: 1)

任何情況下接受矛盾, 批評判斷就完蛋, 科學也崩潰.


“One sees here the danger of loose and metaphorical ways of speaking.  The looseness of the dialectician’s assertion that contradictions are not avoidable and that it is not even desirable to avoid them because they are so fertile is dangerously misleading.  It is misleading because what may be called the fertility of the contradictions is, as we have seen, merely the result of our decision not to put up with them (an attitude which accords with the law of contradiction.  And it is dangerous, because to say that contradictions need not be avoided, or perhaps even that they cannot be avoided, must lead to the breakdown of science, and of criticism, i.e. of rationality. This should emphasize that for anyone who wants to promote truth and enlightenment it is a necessity and even a duty to train himself in the art of expressing things  clearly and unambiguously—even if this means giving up certain niceties of metaphor and clever double meanings.  (322: 3-15)

可見模糊隱喻説話的危險. 辯證家說矛盾肥沃不可避免也不要避免, 實在危險誤導.  誤導, 因為所謂矛盾肥沃, 只是我們決心不容許矛盾的結果. 危險, 因爲說不用或不能避免矛盾, 科學, 與批評判斷, 即理智, 都崩潰.  可見要提昌真理與啓蒙開明, 我們需要也有責任清楚表達事物, 不要模棱兩可, 寧可放棄某些精致隱喻與巧妙雙關語. (322頁: 3-15 行.)


“And they (dialecticians) like to use the term ‘contradiction’ where terms like ‘conflict’, or perhaps ‘opposing tendency’ or ‘opposing interest’, etc., would be less misleading.  …  In fact the misuse of these terms has contributed considerably to the confusion of logic and dialectic which so often occurs in the discussions of the dialecticians.  …  For logic can be described—roughly, perhaps, but well enough for our present purposes—as a theory of deduction.  We have no reason to believe that dialectic has anything to do with deduction.  (322: 20)

而他們(辯證家)喜歡用<矛盾>一詞, 本來<衝突>, 或者<相反傾向> 或者<相反利益>, 等詞更清楚不易誤導.  ….  實際上這些詞語的誤用助長了理則學與辯證法的混亂, 此辯證家討論中經常可見.  … .   因爲理則學淺説就是推理學, 我們沒有理由相信辯證法與推理拉得上任何關係. 


“The main danger of such a confusion of dialectic and logic is, as I said, that it helps people to argue dogmatically.  (Page 328: line 47)

正如我說過了, 如此混亂辯證法與推理學的主要危險是: 這混亂幫助人們教條式的辯論.  (328頁: 42行)


“From all this I think it is clear that one should be very careful in using the term ‘dialectic’.  It would be best, perhaps, not to use it at all—we can always use the clear terminology of the method of trial and error.  (Page 323: line 41)

 上述清楚可見, 用<辯證法>一詞要非常小心.  或者最好乾脆不用它—用<嘗試與錯誤>方法更清楚的詞彚.    




Excerpts translated by KWAN Lihuen (LH Kwan) 關理煊 (關健) 中文選譯   Canada 加拿大   2009-09-05  draft 1稿  3119 words字





[1] A paper by Karl Popper read to a philosophy seminar at Canterbury University College, Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1937.  First publilshed in Mind, N.S., 49, 1940.  Chapter 15 in Conjectures and Refutations by Karl Popper.  London:: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963, pages 312-335.



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