[lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2015 07:48:29 -0500

In a message dated 2/17/2015 9:14:21 A.M.  Eastern Standard Time, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
how much is really  lost in translation between the German and the English 

i. The nothing noths.
ii. Das Nichts nichtet
iii. The Nought noughts.
(cfr. Sartre -- "le néant néantisant")
That infamous paradox has been compared to "The Absolute is lazy", and this 
 may relate to translation. It is alleged that there is some 'semantic' 
rule, if  not syntactic rule (but Carnap prefers, I think, to speak of 
'logical' syntax of  the world) which is broken. 
But it might be that in German, "Das Nichts" has colloquial uses that "the  
Nought" or "the Nothing" lacks. Note that 'the' is hardly used as applied 
to  'the' in English ("Much ado about nothing", not "Much ado about the 

Morphologically, there is this -s in "Nichts" that may have something  to 
do with it. The equivalent older English, "Nought" does not add the -s, but a 
 final -s is added in colloquial English expressions meant in the singular, 
 "Hullo Ducks". 
Chomsky speaks of a native speaker competence and provided Heidegger was a  
native speaker of German, the fact that he is breaking this syntactic or  
semantic rule is perhaps something that a Carnapian should address. 
On the other hand, if Heidegger's utterances are compared to Jabberwocky -- 
 the first four lines cited by Geary -- who decided yesterday, Goedelianly, 
not  no decide on stuff -- , one might wonder not so much if something is 
lost in  translation, but whether alleged nonsense CAN be translated in the 
same way as  'sense' can? (I think Strawson did say, "What is nonsense in one 
language is  nonsense -- in any other language to which the expression can 
be translated" --  cited in Mundle, "Critique of linguistic philosophy", 
It may DO to compare the above with
iv. Negation negates.

Surely nothingness is _not_ negation (and they may not even be  related), 
but 'nichtet' is not German for 'negate'. But there is something  analytic a 
priori (or 'trifle' as Locke would have it) or tautological  
(etymologically, 'saying the same thing', as "Kings reign") about Heidegger's  
that may have done with Carnap's overreacting over it.
Carnap and Ayer focused on this, rather than in the 'Dasein'. The forms for 
 'to be' in German are innumerable, and 'Sein' I don't think has an English 
 cognate. But 'da' does. It's "there". "Being there". So the "Dasein" is 
Now "is there" contrasts with "there is" ("Is there any sugar?", "There is  
a policeman in the corner").
The point was made in one of the quotes by C. B. that Heidegger got into  
'fashion' (or vogue as Anna Wintour prefers) going back to odd etymologies. 
He  infamously said that 
rather than love of wisdom is best regarded as a 'sophia', i.e. a wisdom,  
of what? 'love', of course. I think he was thinking of Plato's Symposium, 
which  dwells, almost wisely, about love.
It may do to revise Heidegger's further etymologies.
If philo-sophia is the wisdom of love, then philo-logia would not be the  
love of words, but a discourse on it. 
It seems that while the German language invites for such an interpretation  
of compounds like 'philo-sophia' and 'philo-logia' (or 'philo-sophos', and  
'philo-logos'), such compounds were felt different by native ancient Greek  
speakers. But it may not be rejected as silly the idea that both  
interpretations resonated with ancient native Greek speakers, and that whoever  
coined 'philo-sophia' or 'philo-logia' or many other compounds Heidegger  
considered in his work and tried to provide a German equivalent for, was  
EXPLOITING such ambiguities.
ps. The agenda of the explication project is set by a German pre-war   
debate between Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger about allegedly  meaningless  
metaphysical statements such as "The Nothing noths" ("Das  Nichts  
nichtet"). Within the mainstream of 20th century analytical  philosophy this 
statement, "The Nothing noths" [O. K. is right and we  SHOULD 'capitalise' --  
that it's MANDATORY in German, and merely  stylistic in modern English -- it 
was mandatory in older English] has come  to be regarded as obvious 
metaphysical  nonsense. As we all know, this  led to an unfortunate 
confrontation between analytical and continental  philosophy. Despite the fact 
this former judgement had been corrected in a  short remark by the 
Mancunian philosopher Desmond Paul Henry in the 1960s,  which he  repeated more 
explicitly in the 1980s, this unnecessary conflict  still seems to  exist. 
Unfortunately Henry's remark didn't find its way to  a greater audience, 
because Henry didn't prove his claim in a canonical  way, perhaps because  
it contains an ambiguity, which may give rise to  criticism. However, the 
required disambiguation together with the missing proofs  can and will be given 
here within Lesniewski's ontology. Following Ludger  Honnefelder we can 
call the Lesniewski systems, which were developed  roughly at the same time 
(1913-1939), the third beginning of  metaphysics.  They will provide the still 
missing bridge between Carnap and  Heidegger, which can be regarded as an 
ontological supplement to and a  partial correction  of Michael Friedman's 
brilliant background study on  Heidegger, Carnap and  Cassirer. The 
hermeneutical conclusion to be drawn  is that reconciliation between  the two 
types of 
philosophy is not only  possible along Cassirer's ideas, but  also along the 
lines of broadly  logical form. In other words: there IS a more fundamental 
way for   reconciliation. The hermeneutical outcome is as follows: one can 
make use of  precise logic tools in a more general way than Carnap himself 
without  declaring at least some  central statements of Heidegger's  
Fundamentalontologie to be pure   nonsense."
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