Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Ereignis

All right, if you know that Ereignis is its name, I'll grant you all the rest.

Philosophy drags words back and forth across the threshold of sense, from their metaphysical to their ordinary uses (Wittgenstein) and back again (Heidegger). It is therefore not advisable to introduce verbiage that is incapable of the passage.

There are two equally unadvisable ways of making such introductions when translating Heidegger. First, you can leave the word in its original German, e.g., Ereignis or Dasein; second, you can manufacture a neologism, e.g., Enowning or There-Being (capitalizing and hyphenating are simple ways of producing new words out of old ones; the structure of en-owning is quite clear in this regard.)

But how can I show why I think this is a bad idea?

Here's a passage from Being and Time (H. 253).

"Der Tod" begegnet als bekanntes innerweltlich vorkommendes Ereignis.
And here is that last sentence of "Die Kehre" I've been redoing again and again.
Dass Welt, weltend, das Nächste sei alles Nahen, das naht, indem es die Wahrheit des Seins dem Menschenwesen nähert und so den Menschen dem Ereignis vereignet.
Would you know from their translations that these both make use of the ordinary German word "event"?
"Death" is encountered as a well-known event occuring within-the-world.

May world in its worlding be the nearest of all nearing that nears, as it brings the truth of Being near to man’s essence, and so gives man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

7 comments:

enowning said...
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enowning said...

If Ereignis stands for event as such, then it should be translated. It's only when Ereignis stands for die Wahrheit des Seins selbst that it's misleading to translate it with event.

Thomas Basbøll said...

But why did Heidegger not write "die Wahrheit des Seins selbst" then?

It's not that I want to make him an authority, just that some effort should be made to preserve an importation connotation of Ereignis even in its metaphysical sense. I want to preserve (in English), as you put it, the fact that Ereignis happens or is otherwise part of what is going on.

The Lovitt's translation of "The Turning", for example, the reader doesn't háve a chance.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Or, rather, why did he write both "die Wahrheit des Seins dem Menschenwesen" and "Ereignis"?

enowning said...

I don't know why Heidegger made the decisions he made, but through-out his career he went through over a dozen different words and phrases for his insight. "Die Wahrheit des Seins selbst" was one of them, the Da in Dasein (or there in there-being, if you will) another. Some argue that thrown-ness in Being and Time is another. We now have access to many of his private notes and know that settled on using Ereignis for his own notes in the mid-30s. But he reserved its public use. He describes what he means by Ereignis briefly in one of the essays in Identity and Language, but it is only in Time and Being in the 1960s, essentially his last major text, that he comes out and say explicitly that Ereignis is his preferred term for the answer to the question of what makes beings possible.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I suppose one of my questions is: what word would he have settled on if he were writing in English. Is there are word for "what makes beings possible"? The event, it seems to me is perfectly fine as far as it goes. Ereignis can't possibly be more apt, and its association to other words (naming ordinary happenings, occurences and incidents) is part of its metaphysical import.

But I'll think on it some more.

enowning said...

By the way, in an upcoming Ereignis Interview, Richard Polt explains why Ereignis should be understood as an "event".