Thursday, May 18, 2006

Omitted Translation in "The Principle of Identity"

Lately I've been working on an interlinear version of Heidegger's “The Principle of Identity” (found in Identity and Difference, Joan Stambaugh, trans. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1969)). In the process I discovered that Stambaugh did not translate two sentences (in bold):
Der Name für die Versammlung des Herausforderns, das Mensch und Sein einander so zu-stellt, daβ sie sich wechselweise stellen, lautet: das Ge-Stell. Man hat sich an diesem Wortgebrauch gestoβen. Aber wir sagen statt «stellen» auch «setzen» und finden nichts dabei, daβ wir das Wort Ge-setz gebrauchen. Warum also nicht auch Ge-Stell, wenn der Blick in den Sachverhalt dies verlangt?
“Der Satz der Identität,” 99.
The first sentence is translated as follows:
The name for the gathering of this challenge which places man and Being face to face in such a way that they challenge each other by turns is “the framework.”
As my German is sub-par, I emailed one of my old professors (who asked to be anonymous). He proposed that Stambaugh probably didn't translate these sentences because “they are a reflection [on] the neologism Ge-Stell that is very difficult to render into English” (Anonymous (personal communication), Thursday, May 18, 2006 10:15 AM). Stambaugh admits as much in the following footnote:
Framework or Frame (Ge-Stell) and event of appropriation (Er-eignis) are perhaps the two key words in this lecture. They are extremely difficult to translate. “Ge-Stell” in the sense in which Heidegger uses it does not belong to common language. In German, “Berg” means a mountain, “Geberge” means a chain or group of mountains. In the same way “Ge-Stell” is the unity (but not a unity in the sense of a general whole subsuming all particulars under it) of all the activities in which the verb “stellen” (place, put, set) figures: vor-stellen (represent, think), stellen (challenge), ent-stellen (disfigure), nach-stellen (to be after someone, pursue him stealthily), sicher-stellen (to make certain of something).
“Introduction,” in Identity and Difference, 14.
With that, my professor proposed the following “rough translation”:
One takes exception to this use of words. But we say instead of “place” (stellen) also “put” (setzen) and think nothing about the fact that we use the word “Ge-setz” (law). Therefore why not also Ge-Stell, when the view into the facts demands this?
Anonymous (personal communication).
Here, then, Heidegger seems to be making a case for his use of the neologism Ge-Stell, despite its non-existence in German. Then again, what else can he do when the idea that he is proposing cannot be adequately understood with already-existing terms that themselves are probably infused with the metaphysical worldview that he is critiquing? Such is a danger of letting “the matter speak for itself” (“The Principle of Identity,” 29)--it might speak something that is quite foreign to our usual concepts.

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Blogger enowning said...

The Leidecker translation has that snippet:

"Some have objected to the use of this word. But are we not using instead of 'to frame' also to set or posit? Then we find nothing wrong in the use of the word 'statute'. Why should we, then, not use frame-work when insight into the situation demands it?"

9:18 AM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...

For those who do not know, there have been a few comments on this post and a suggested translation over at Heidegger: Philosophical Discussions. These posts (and their comments) can be found here and here.

10:55 AM  

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