l’étant (vs. l'être)

English translation: a being (vs. Being)

GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
French term or phrase:l'étant (vs. l'être)
English translation:a being (vs. Being)
Entered by: John Holland

18:19 Jan 5, 2013
French to English translations [PRO]
Social Sciences - Philosophy
French term or phrase: l’étant (vs. l'être)
What is the difference between the two? What is the equivalent of l’étant in English? Being (l'être) vs....?

This is from a Philosophy text on "ousia" and "energeia" in Neo-Platonism:

Une percée se trouve ainsi accomplie vers ce qui va constituer l’une des thèses majeures du Commentaire anonyme au Parménide : l’Un est « agir pur », il est ****« l’être antérieur à l’étant »**** (XII, 25-27). Cette innovation a eu de grandes répercussions sur la théologie de Marius Victorinus qui voit en Dieu un « agir pur »  (agere, Adv. Arium, IV, 3, 16 correspondant en Dieu au vivere).

It comes up again later in the text when the author talks about Schelling:

Dans l’Exposé de la philosophie rationnelle pure, Schelling se livre à une interprétation systématique, à la lumière de sa propre théorie des puissances, des « quatre causes aristotéliciennes ». Parmi ces causes, il réserve un traitement tout particulier à la quatrième, le ti ên einai, qu’il situe radicalement à part des trois autres. Il interprète cette quatrième cause comme ce qui est **l’étant**, en donnant à l’être le sens tout particulier d’un acte constitutif de ***l’étant*** et de chaque ***étant*** particulier.
tatyana000
Local time: 09:51
a being (vs. Being)
Explanation:
This is a difficult question to take up because the distinction involves very fundamental ontological problems. For translation, it's as much a conceptual or philosophical issue as it is linguistic or semantic, especially since it also involves the history of how Greek terms have been translated into French and into English.

Generally speaking, "l'étant" can be understood as referring to specific entities whereas "l'être" is the "essence" or "essential nature" of existing things, or entities. Or to put is another way, ""l'étant" is "concrete" (and countable) while "l'être" is "abstract" (and uncountable in the sense that the One is uncountable).

This distinction is reflected in the (non-technical) definitions of the terms when used as nouns, for example:

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/étant
"étant /e.tɑ̃/ masculin
(Philosophie) Concept utilisé pour désigner tout ce qui se présente d'une façon déterminée, sur un mode concret, opposé à l’être qui est indéterminé, indifférencié."

vs.

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/être
"être /ɛtʁ/ masculin
Existence, c’est-à-dire le fait d'exister, au sens abstrait."

However, as the Wikipedia rightly notes (at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being ):
"Being is an extremely broad concept encompassing subjective and objective features of reality and existence. Anything that partakes in being is also called a "being", though often this use is limited to entities that have subjectivity (as in the expression "human being"). So broad a notion has inevitably been elusive and controversial in the history of philosophy, beginning in western philosophy with attempts among the pre-Socratics to deploy it intelligibly."

How the distinction between these terms is conceptualized (if they are distinguished at all) tends to lie at the heart of a given philosopher's approach. And neo-Platonic philosophy is all about the question of Being:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonic

I'd usally approach this kind of issue by looking at how other translators have dealt with the terms in question, in particular by researching the specific passages in Proclus and Schelling to which your author refers in their respective English translations.

The Proclus seems to be a direct quote, and it seems that a recent English translation of the text it's from is available online here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=TiOj1EZpGAoC&printsec=front...

For the Schelling, however, it seems that the work your author cites has been translated into English yet, so that's a complication:
http://www.egs.edu/library/friedrich-wilhelm-joseph-schellin...

And yet, your author appears to be referring to Franck Fischbach's work on Schelling and the four causes. Please see:
http://books.google.fr/books?hl=fr&id=O4kZnHDScqMC&q=Schelli...
That discussion is worth reading because it provides a much fuller context for the sentence you cited.

Based on Fischbach, here is a first (i.e., very literal) try at a translation of the final sentence about Schelling you cite:
He [Schelling] views the fourth cause as that which a being is, by giving to Being the very particular meaning of the constitutive act of a being and of each particular being.


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 hrs (2013-01-06 09:48:03 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

@ fionn:

I agree that "beings" in the plural is another option - I was trying to distinguish between the countable (a being, beings) and Being as the One (which if it is "countable," it's not in the same sense).

I'm less sure about using "existence" here, but that's mostly a result of not having the context of the whole argument.

Part of the complication is that "l'étant" is a participle of the French verb "to be," and "ousia" is a participle of the Greek verb "to be" (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ousia ), but there seems to be a distinction in the paper between "l'étant" and "ousia." I'm not sure what may or may not be implied about existence there, if the author is in fact distinguishing between the two participles.

I think it's quite possible that "existence" could even be preferable, depending on the overall argument, so that you again for your comment.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 16 hrs (2013-01-06 10:31:09 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Typo: I meant to say that Schelling's Philosophische Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie oder Darstellung der reinrationalen Philosophie (or Philosophical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology or Presentation of the Purely Rational Philosophy, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schelling/?&$NMW_TRANS$=ext#Bib ) has not been translated into English.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 16 hrs (2013-01-06 10:56:06 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Another typo: I meant to say "thank you again" to fionn.
Selected response from:

John Holland
France
Local time: 09:51
Grading comment
Thanks yet again for your help!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
3 +4a being (vs. Being)
John Holland
3 +1becoming
cc in nyc
1being (vs. to be)
Wolf Draeger
Summary of reference entries provided
Heidegger ref fwiw
writeaway

Discussion entries: 4





  

Answers


2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 1/5Answerer confidence 1/5
being (vs. to be)


Explanation:
Lovely question :-) which needs a more thorough reading of the thinkers in question; a quick guess on my part is that the distinction is between "to be", which is eternal and immutable, and "being", which is temporal/transient and active.

English grammar doesn't allow for the same delineation of concepts as Greek (or French/German), so its juxtaposition of Be and Being may not have the same clarity as Greek or other languages.

Example sentence(s):
  • ...the One is "pure action", it is "to Be before Being"...
  • ...cause as what is Being, giving the unique meaning of an action belonging to (the essence of) Being and of each individual (moment of) Being.
Wolf Draeger
South Africa
Local time: 09:51
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Isabelle Barth-O'Neill: pas mal - suis assez tentée d'être d'accord
1 day 16 hrs
  -> Merci; rien ne vous en empêche ;-)
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

10 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +4
a being (vs. Being)


Explanation:
This is a difficult question to take up because the distinction involves very fundamental ontological problems. For translation, it's as much a conceptual or philosophical issue as it is linguistic or semantic, especially since it also involves the history of how Greek terms have been translated into French and into English.

Generally speaking, "l'étant" can be understood as referring to specific entities whereas "l'être" is the "essence" or "essential nature" of existing things, or entities. Or to put is another way, ""l'étant" is "concrete" (and countable) while "l'être" is "abstract" (and uncountable in the sense that the One is uncountable).

This distinction is reflected in the (non-technical) definitions of the terms when used as nouns, for example:

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/étant
"étant /e.tɑ̃/ masculin
(Philosophie) Concept utilisé pour désigner tout ce qui se présente d'une façon déterminée, sur un mode concret, opposé à l’être qui est indéterminé, indifférencié."

vs.

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/être
"être /ɛtʁ/ masculin
Existence, c’est-à-dire le fait d'exister, au sens abstrait."

However, as the Wikipedia rightly notes (at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being ):
"Being is an extremely broad concept encompassing subjective and objective features of reality and existence. Anything that partakes in being is also called a "being", though often this use is limited to entities that have subjectivity (as in the expression "human being"). So broad a notion has inevitably been elusive and controversial in the history of philosophy, beginning in western philosophy with attempts among the pre-Socratics to deploy it intelligibly."

How the distinction between these terms is conceptualized (if they are distinguished at all) tends to lie at the heart of a given philosopher's approach. And neo-Platonic philosophy is all about the question of Being:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonic

I'd usally approach this kind of issue by looking at how other translators have dealt with the terms in question, in particular by researching the specific passages in Proclus and Schelling to which your author refers in their respective English translations.

The Proclus seems to be a direct quote, and it seems that a recent English translation of the text it's from is available online here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=TiOj1EZpGAoC&printsec=front...

For the Schelling, however, it seems that the work your author cites has been translated into English yet, so that's a complication:
http://www.egs.edu/library/friedrich-wilhelm-joseph-schellin...

And yet, your author appears to be referring to Franck Fischbach's work on Schelling and the four causes. Please see:
http://books.google.fr/books?hl=fr&id=O4kZnHDScqMC&q=Schelli...
That discussion is worth reading because it provides a much fuller context for the sentence you cited.

Based on Fischbach, here is a first (i.e., very literal) try at a translation of the final sentence about Schelling you cite:
He [Schelling] views the fourth cause as that which a being is, by giving to Being the very particular meaning of the constitutive act of a being and of each particular being.


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 hrs (2013-01-06 09:48:03 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

@ fionn:

I agree that "beings" in the plural is another option - I was trying to distinguish between the countable (a being, beings) and Being as the One (which if it is "countable," it's not in the same sense).

I'm less sure about using "existence" here, but that's mostly a result of not having the context of the whole argument.

Part of the complication is that "l'étant" is a participle of the French verb "to be," and "ousia" is a participle of the Greek verb "to be" (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ousia ), but there seems to be a distinction in the paper between "l'étant" and "ousia." I'm not sure what may or may not be implied about existence there, if the author is in fact distinguishing between the two participles.

I think it's quite possible that "existence" could even be preferable, depending on the overall argument, so that you again for your comment.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 16 hrs (2013-01-06 10:31:09 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Typo: I meant to say that Schelling's Philosophische Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie oder Darstellung der reinrationalen Philosophie (or Philosophical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology or Presentation of the Purely Rational Philosophy, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schelling/?&$NMW_TRANS$=ext#Bib ) has not been translated into English.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 16 hrs (2013-01-06 10:56:06 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Another typo: I meant to say "thank you again" to fionn.

John Holland
France
Local time: 09:51
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 28
Grading comment
Thanks yet again for your help!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  fionn: Very thorough research and spot on I think in terms of the distinction under discussion. Though I'd say 'l'étant' according to context here should be translated 'existence' or 'beings' as well as 'a being'.
2 hrs
  -> Thanks, fionn. Please also see my comment above.

agree  Liliane Hatem
3 hrs
  -> Thanks, Liliane

agree  CHAKIB ROULA (X): Agree with this transaltion
4 hrs
  -> Thanks, CHAKIB

agree  B D Finch
12 hrs
  -> Thanks, B D
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +1
l’étant
becoming


Explanation:
Maybe? Philosophy is not my specialty, but maybe?

See, for instance, "Being and Becoming: Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Hegel"
http://ontologicalstatus.blogspot.com/2012/03/being-and-beco...

"Schelling explains the transition from being to becoming in the following way [...]"
http://books.google.com/books?id=ku4FFSGDtQoC&pg=PA294&lpg=P...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 18 hrs (2013-01-06 13:00:49 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Oh, sorry, I realize now that the "term" that I proposed should have been for the original thread title – "l’étant (vs. l'être)" – and that I should have entered it as "becoming (vs. being)" ;-)

cc in nyc
Local time: 03:51
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Yolanda Broad: Looks right! And familiar...
7 hrs
  -> Thank you.

neutral  B D Finch: Wouldn't that have been "devenir"?
21 hrs
  -> If that is the case, then my proposal is wrong. Got sources?
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




Reference comments


6 hrs peer agreement (net): +1
Reference: Heidegger ref fwiw

Reference information:
3) L'Etre et l'étant

Heidegger oppose deux façons de comprendre un participe présent. Par exemple "passant" peut désigner l'homme (l'individu) qui passe mais aussi ce qui arrive à un individu. Quand je dis "un passant", je n'utilise pas le participe présent de la même façon que lorsque je dis que j'ai surpris un homme au régime "mangeant" des friandises. Or, on peut appliquer cette distinction au verbe être. " Étant " peut avoir deux sens :

Ou bien "étant" désigne une chose. Un étant, c'est donc une chose quelconque qui a part à l'être, qui est "quelque chose qui est ". L'homme, par exemple, est un étant particulier, celui qui a pour nom Dasein.
"étant" peut aussi qualifier ce qui arrive à un étant en train d'être. L'être lui survient comme un processus à la fois étrange et fondamental.
http://sos.philosophie.free.fr/heidegge.php

writeaway
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this reference comment (and responses from the reference poster)
agree  Yolanda Broad: Right. It's Heidegger. (I've seen it in Derrida's discussions of Heidegger.) / And I heard him speak at Brown. Got myself in trouble, too, because I told him he was basing his discussions of language on faulty premises: you don't fault visiting stars.
2 hrs
  -> oh dear. that really brings back memories. He was a guest professor at NYU in Paris. Those were the days....
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)



Login or register (free and only takes a few minutes) to participate in this question.

You will also have access to many other tools and opportunities designed for those who have language-related jobs (or are passionate about them). Participation is free and the site has a strict confidentiality policy.

KudoZ™ translation help

The KudoZ network provides a framework for translators and others to assist each other with translations or explanations of terms and short phrases.


See also:

Your current localization setting

English

Select a language

Term search
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search