Syntax as Terminology in Schopenhauer

I will show a few examples of what kind of problems a translator of creative non-fiction may face. Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung) is an excellent case since his book contains both terminological patterns and an overly complex syntax, which often has a terminological flavor. It means that the mistranslation of syntax may lead to the misinterpretation of the author’s argument.

In the 25th paragraph, Schopenhauer argues that the will is indivisible despite the plurality of things as they appear in space and time.

Here is the German original: § 25 «Die Vielheit der Dinge in Raum und Zeit, welche sämtlich seine Objektität sind, trifft daher ihn nicht und er bleibt, ihrer ungeachtet, unteilbar».

The most challenging part of this sentence is a personal pronoun “sie” in the subordinate clause, which is here in the genitive case because of the preposition “ungeachtet,” and it refers to a noun in the main clause. We have two possible options: “ihrer” indicates either genitive plural (which in German is equal for all grammatical genders) or genitive feminine. In the first case, it would mean that “ihrer” stands for “things in space and time” (Dinge in Raum und Zeit). In the second case, it would mean that “ihrer” refers to “plurality” (Vielheit).

Let us now look into different English translations of this sentence.

J. Norman, A. Welchman, C. Janaway: «Thus, the multiplicity of things in space and time, which together constitute the objecthood of the will, fails to affect the will itself, and it remains indivisible in spite of them

R. B. Haldane, J. Kampe: «The multiplicity of things in space and time, which collectively constitute the objectification of will, does not affect the will itself, which remains indivisible notwithstanding it

E. F. J. Payne: «Therefore, the plurality of things in space and time that together are the objectivity of the will, does not concern the will, which, in spite of such plurality, remains indivisible.»

We can see that Norman, Welchman, and Janaway interpreted Schopenhauer’s pronoun as referring to “things in space and time” (in spite of them). In contrast, others understood it as standing for “plurality.”

These translations, of course, do have different implications.

This sentence, however, also has a crucial term for Schopenhauer’s theory – Objektität. Only Norman, Welchman, and Janaway managed to interpret it correctly as objecthood. Objektität is neither objectification (Objektivation) nor objectivity (Objektivität). Throughout the book, Schopenhauer clearly distinguishes between objecthood as the state of the will and objectification, which is a process leading to its objecthood. Haldane and Kampe, for instance, did not distinguish between Objektivation and Objektität and, in both cases, translated it as objectification, which is a grave error.

Ukrainian version