Heidegger's philosophy of translation

Miles Groth, Fordham University


Translation is an early and ongoing, but as yet for the most part unexamined, theme of Heidegger's lecture courses and essays. According to Heidegger, translation became a central philosophical issue in the Western tradition soon after its beginnings when a number of the basic words of the early Greek thinkers were sometimes mistranslated into Latin and that, as a result, the thought of the pre-Socratics and the classic Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, has remained obscure. For Heidegger, because of the relation between thinking and translating, and the relation of both to language, it is not a thinker's words, but rather the translator's thought, that is translated when he attempts to render a text in his own native language. The resulting text is a recomposition of the original text, not the exchange of words between the vocabularies of two natural languages. Translation also goes on within the same language whenever one speaks and writes. I first present the principles of Heidegger's philosophy of translation and present them as ontological, hermeneutic and methodological elements. Next, I examine Heidegger's rendering of Parmenides' Fragment VI as an example of his method of paratactic translation, in which each word of an utterance, rather than the syntactic ensemble, initially guides the rendering. Finally, I apply Heidegger' s own principles to a translation of Was ist Metaphysik? and argue on philosophical grounds for new renderings of Heidegger's basic words, including Sein, Seiende, Dasein and Existenz. I also explore the relation of Heidegger's view of translation to the question about the meaning of Sein and the relation of Sein and thinking. Heidegger's hermeneutics complements interpretation theory since Schleiermacher, but in suggesting that thinking does not occur in words, Heidegger also challenges that view.

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Recommended Citation

Groth, Miles, "Heidegger's philosophy of translation" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9730092.