[Wittrs] On Translating Wittgenstein

  • From: Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 10 Oct 2009 13:52:19 -0700 (PDT)

Regarding translation, I don't speak German. But I can offer this from Ray Monk:

With respect to the translation of the early version of Philosophical 
Investigations ...

"On Moore's recommendation, Wittgenstein asked Rush Rhees to undertake the 
translation. It was a formidable task -- not because Wittgenstein's German is 
difficult (in the way that, for example, Kant's German is difficult), but 
rather because Wittgenstein's language has the singularly rare quality of being 
both colloquial and painstakingly precise. " [He goes on to say that 
Wittgenstein was horrified with Rhees translation]. (M, p.414)

This squares with attempts by others (Waismann?) to take down Wittgenstein's 
ideas as he talked. He was always frustrated that the idea on paper was never 
getting his point straight. And to that end, we might add these from Culture 
and Value:

“If I am thinking about a
topic just for myself and not with a view to writing a book, I jump about all
round it; that is the only way of thinking that comes naturally to me. Forcing
my thoughts into an ordered sequence is a torment for me. Is it even worth
attempting now?
"I SQUANDER an unspeakable
amount of effort making an arrangement of my thoughts which may have no value
at all.”  CV, 1937, 28.
“I just took some apples out
of a paper bag where they had been lying for a long time. I had to cut half off
many of them and throw it away. Afterwards when I was copying out a sentence I
had written, the second half of which was bad, I at once saw it as a
half-rotten apple. And that’s how it always is with me. Everything that comes
my way becomes a picture for me of what I am thinking about at the time. (Is
there something feminine about this way of thinking?)” CV 1937, p.31 
“I believe that my
originality (if that is the right word) is an originality belonging to the soil
rather than to the seed. (Perhaps I have no seed of my own.) Sow a seed in my
soil and it will grow differently than it would in any other soil.” 1939-1940,
CV p. 36 

"I think I summed my
attitude to philosophy when I said: philosophy ought really to be written as a
POETIC COMPOSITION. It must, as it seems to me, be possible to gather from this
how far my thinking belongs to the present, future or past. For I was thereby
revealing myself as someone who cannot quite do what he would like to be able
to do." from Culture and Value, 1933-34, page 24 ... 
"Nearly all my writings
are private conversations with myself. Things that I say to myself tete-a-tete"

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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