Don’t Read German, But My Ancient Greek is Great!

So here I am reading “Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and Real” in Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, translated by Belfort Bax and Bailey Saunders. And it is well translated: very clear English with not a hint of German syntax. Then: bam! Schopenhauer starts to discuss the ideality of time in Plotinus’ Ennead 3.7: “On Eternity and Time.” And he quotes part of it. In Greek! But not to worry, for those illiterates like me, he provides a translation: in Latin!

You see the problem for translators! They are translating a German text into English—and doing a beautiful job of it. What are they to do when Schopenhauer left text in Greek and Latin? Obviously, Schopenhauer thought his readers would know ancient Greek or at least Latin—in 1851 when Parerga and Paralipomena (where the essay first appeared) was published. Why should they translate these passages into English now?

I will tell you why! No one who needs German translated into English knows ancient Greek! This wasn’t even true in 1936 when it was translated. Anyway, isn’t it obvious that Schopenhauer only provided the ancient Greek and Latin quotations because they were readily available? A German translation would have had to have been done by him. This would have opened him to attacks that his translation was all wrong in terms of detail and meaning. And then no one would have even considered the arguments he was making.

What were Bax and Saunders thinking? They couldn’t provide endnotes with the English? This was written before Google Translate, you know!

Update: Google translate does not include Latin or ancient Greek. There seems to be no really good free auto-translators for Latin. I don’t know about Greek. But it hardly matters: I wouldn’t even know how to enter the characters!

Politics: 23 September 2010

A woman in Montana was charged by a black bear while she was in her back yard. Thinking quickly, she picked up the closest weapon to defend herself: a large zucchini, with which she fended off the bear. All I can say is that had she grabbed a zucchini, this story would not have ended so well. I hope that I don’t have to explain why!

Show Sucking Daily

For about six months now, The Daily Show has been really pissing me off. John Stewart and company really go out of their way to be “even handed.” This might be okay if both sides of the political debate were equally ridiculous. But as we know, this is not the case. In fact, Glenn Beck has already tried to turn the “Rally to Restore Sanity” into some kind of conspiracy to whip up young people into a frenzy right before the election. Who on the left is anywhere near this paranoid and just plain nutty? And yet, on last night’s episode, Stewart bent over backwards to make an equivalence between the Democrats and the Republicans on the issue of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Almost no mention was made to Republican hypocrisy on this issue, and absolutely no mention was made to John McCain’s towering hypocrisy. Stewart rarely makes me laugh any more, and we he does, it is because of his silliness. The Colbert Report has been consistently better for the last six months. So has The Rachel Maddow Show! Stewart’s satire just isn’t working—I think because satire can’t be “even handed.” Anyway, we already have enough of that: it’s called the mainstream media.

Regarding the “Rally to Restore Sanity”: it is almost certain that it will draw far more people than Glenn Beck’s rally. The Daily Show has as many viewers as Beck at a time when far fewer people are watching TV. Those viewers are far younger, and thus more likely to go out to a rally—or free live comedy show, depending upon how you want to look at it. And the rally is taking place in a liberal area. It will be interesting to see how many people show up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets well over double Beck’s paltry 87,000.

This is Rich

On the day that important health care reform goes into effect, the Republicans are presenting “A Pledge to America.” In reporting about it, the New York Times waits until the fourth paragraph to get at the heart of it: “The blueprint was also clearly intended to provide fresh ideas to answer allegations by Mr. Obama and Democrats that Republicans simply want to return to the policies of the Bush administration. Still, many of the proposals represent classic Republican ideals of small government and low taxes pursued for generations by George W. Bush and other party leaders.”

The document (pdf) is rich in that it contains the same welfare for the rich policies that we always get from Republicans. But what is even more rich is the whole tone of the piece, especially the introduction. Take for example, this gem where they talk about the need to address, “Rising joblessness, crushing debt and a polarizing political environment”! Rising joblessness? Who forced the stimulus to be cut and to be distributed in the least stimulative way? The Republicans! Crushing debt? Who wants to extend tax cuts for the rich that will increase the budget deficit by $700 billion over the next ten years? The Republicans! Who has created a polarized political environment? Oh please! Was it Obama because he had the audacity to be black?! The Republicans have been in lockstep in opposing anything the Democrats want, even when it was originally a Republican idea—like McCain’s health care reform, which is what we got stuck with, even though he voted against it. The Republicans: they’re rich in more ways than one.

But let John Boehner get to the heart of the matter:

Self-Torture

For whatever reason, I decided to torture myself yesterday—but it didn’t start until this morning. I picked up a copy of The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, from the library. I’ve already read the book; Andrea sent it to me as a “gift” about two years ago, after she found she could not make it past the first chapter. It is perhaps the most important book I’ve read in the last ten years, but it is also an extremely unpleasant one. Well, those two aspects of the book are tightly linked. I could not bring myself to read the first chapter about Ewen Cameron again, so I started on the second chapter and read all of the second part about Milton Friedman’s and Augusto Pinochet’s two pronged torture of the Chilean people. It is so sad and it makes me so ashamed to be an American. None of this is what we are supposed to be. None of this is what I was taught in civics classes. But more and more, this is what the conservatives in this country explicitly claim. This is not to say that the liberals are not also very much to blame (although less so), but they don’t hold up such despicable behavior as ideals of our nation.

Ayn Rand

I heard about this from Paul Krugman, but it is originally from King Fu Monkey: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

On the same page is a statement that makes it clear that Kung Fu Monkey is a kindred spirit, “The news that there is now a retractable version of the Uniball Vision pen matters to no one … except those few of us to whom it matters more than our mother’s love.” Of course, I would never use such a pen, but it is not the taste that matters so much as the fact that taste matters.