What a Misinterpretation of a Verb Form May Lead to

In my previous post on Hegel, I have already pointed out the pivotal significance of Hegel’s concept of “a natural representation” (eine natürliche Vorstellung) for his argument in the Introduction (Einleitung) to the Phenomenology of Spirit (Phänomenologie des Geistes). Now I would like to tackle the misinterpretation of the syntactical role of the verb “schöpft” in the fourth paragraph of the Introduction. Surprisingly enough, this misinterpretation is common to all translations of Hegel’s book into English.

According to Hegel, a natural representation consists in the necessity to figure out what cognizing (das Erkennen) is before the very act of cognizing. Thus, there are two basic kinds of natural representation: the representation of cognizing as the instrument and the passive medium. In the fourth paragraph, Hegel commences his attempt to shake off these natural representations, which he now calls excuses (Ausreden). Here is the German original:

«statt mit den Ausreden, welche das Unvermögen der Wissenschaft aus der Voraussetzung solcher Verhältnisse schöpft».

It is crucial to notice that Hegel uses the plural «Auseden» here. If the relative pronoun «welche» (which stands for «excuses») were indeed the subject of the subordinate clause, the verb «schöpfen» would have to be used in the plural as well. However, Hegel uses the third person singular. What does it mean? It means that there is no way this verb can be related to «excuses,» which is Hegel’s word for natural representations in this context. On the contrary, he says the incapacity of science (das Unvermögen der Wissenschaft) creates such excuses out of the supposition of such relations (i.e., inherent to natural representations).

Strangely enough, all translators of this passage into English understood it absurdly by having related the verb in the third person singular to a noun in the plural:

«Nor need we trouble about the evasive pretexts which create the incapacity of science out of the presupposition of such relations» (J. B. Baillie).

«instead of putting up with excuses which create the incapacity of Science by assuming relationships of this kind» (A. V. Miller).

«There is no need to bother with excuses which derive the incapacity of science from the presupposition of such relationships as these» (Michael Inwood).

«instead of fussing around with excuses which create the incapacity of science by presupposing such relations» (Terry Pinkard).

First of all, such a translation does not make any sense in terms of syntax. To make matters worse, this reading also claims that those excuses (natural representations) create the actual incapacity of science, which is a preposterous interpretation.