Aufuhēben.

Back in 2005 we discussed the verb “sublate” and its origin in German aufheben (as used by Hegel); I am now here to report, courtesy of Victor Mair at the Log, that the Japanese loanword aufuhēben アウフヘーベン is under consideration for buzzword of the year, as reported by Tomoko Otake in The Japan Times:

Aufheben, a concept by German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, also made the cut. The word, which has several contradictory meanings such as “lift up,” “suspend” and “cancel,” was until recently not in the lexicon of most Japanese, but it took the spotlight after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike used the German word in reference to various plans to repair Tokyo’s venerable Tsukiji fish market. After leaving many reporters and much of the public confused, she said: “It means to stop once and go one level up next.”

Bathrobe comments:

I didn’t even have to look this one up. I heard “aufheben” from a professor of conservative Japanese linguistics in Japan when I was an undergraduate there almost half a century ago. It’s philosophical and intellectual but seems to get a certain amount of use, at least among intellectuals in Japan.

Another commenter, Zeppelin, writes:

I’ve read that Nietzsche, too, is very popular in Japan. Which I find a bit disconcerting, because he’s basically untranslatable. I can’t imagine you’d get much out of his aphorisms if you lose the dense, culturally-specific wordplay and the ability to distinguish the more serious ones from those that mainly exist for the sake of a good pun. Do Japanese philosophers typically study German?

Which seems very odd to me. Is Zeppelin not aware that Nietzsche is (or has been) very popular pretty much everywhere, including the US? For someone who’s allegedly untranslatable, he sure gets around.

Comments

  1. I read him in Paulo César de Souza’s Portuguese translation. I like it a lot, but he relied on a ton of footnotes to deal with the wordplay etc. (not a criticism, I think that’s the proper solution for this case). One thing I liked is that he wouldn’t just explain how the original worked, but also list many other translations in major European languages; I like translators who steal leverage the corpus of existing translations.

  2. It seems somehow appropriate that Aufheben should be the name of an album (the twelfth, in fact) by a group called the Brian Jonestown Massacre. It features tracks with scintillating titles like:

    Panic in Babylon
    Viholliseni Maalla, which Google Translate tells me means “My enemy on earth” in Finnish
    Gaz Hilarant, which Google Translate tells me means “Laughing gas” in French
    Illuminomi, about which Google Translate tells me nothing at all
    I Want to Hold Your Other Hand
    Face Down on the Moon
    The Clouds Are Lies
    Stairway to the Best Party in the Universe
    Seven Kinds of Wonderful
    Waking Up to Hand Grenades

    They seem to have sublated humour (or perhaps just weirdness) to a new level.

    I know nothing about their music.

  3. J.W. Brewer says:

    I have heard of the B J Massacre but not (as best as I can recall) listened closely to their music. But surely the question here should be whether the B J Massacre are notably more popular in Japan than in their country of origin? The way American teenagers of my generation mostly ignored Hegel until his breakthrough “Live at Budokan” LP.

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    As to the translatability of Nietzsche, I have heard it alleged (but have not studied closely enough to have an opinion on the merits of the allegation) that several generations of US college students (and, perhaps, their professors …) whose access to Nietzsche was solely through Walter Kaufmann’s market-dominant translations knew a lot more about the philosophy of Kaufmann than they did the philosophy of Nietzsche. Indeed, the cynic may say that quite a lot of them knew only those facets of Kaufmann/Nietzsche’s thought that had made the cut to be included in the well-known anthology The Portable Nietzsche, which reflected Kaufmann’s editorial judgment as to what the greatest hits were, as well as his English versions of them.

    Of course, new technology may change things a bit and I just saw someone linking approvingly to a page that gives the inquiring reader free access to scans of an 18 volume set (with various translators) of Nietzsche’s complete works that was originally published back between 1909 and 1913 (before Kaufmann was even born), and thus has the advantage of being safely out of copyright.

  5. Yeah, I’ve heard that Kaufmann’s translations are unsatisfactory (in fact, it may have been discussed here at LH), and obviously you’d get a fuller understanding of Nietzsche if you read him in German (just as you’d get a fuller understanding of anything if you read it in the original), but the idea that you couldn’t possibly enjoy Nietzsche unless you read him in German struck me as ludicrous.

  6. My impression is that at least in writing, Japanese academics tend to prefer the translation word shiyō 止揚 over the katakana word aufuhēben アウフヘーベン. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if aufuhēben is more common in speech, because shiyō has several common homophones that could potentially cause confusion (especially 使用).

  7. J.W. Brewer says:

    The claims I was referring to seemed to think that there was something specifically subpar about Kaufmann (not that I recall what it was supposed to be) that went beyond the inherent impossibility of translating the ineffable blah blah blah out of the original into another tongue, such that it was plausible to think that different and better English translations were feasible and would remedy the alleged problem, if only they could overcome Kaufmann’s dominance in the market.

  8. For those who want a translation written by a translator and Germanist instead of a philosopher with a limited grasp of English and an axe to grind, I am glad to say that my mother’s translation of Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks is now available online. Jer translations of Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spoke Zarathustra are cheaply available from Amazon or ABEbooks. Her other book, Humanist without Portfolio, an anthology of excerpts from the works of Wilhelm von Humboldt (linguist, political philosopher, and brother of the much more famous Alexander), is also available in hard cover, but only for $44, alas.

  9. Translating Hegel is an exercise in futility.

    Quote from Russian translation (sorry for transliteration, the damn thing banned all Cyrillic)

    Zhivaya substantsiya, daleye, yest’ bytiye, kotoroye poistine yest’ sub”yekt ili, chto to zhe samoye, kotoroye poistine yest’ deystvitel’noye bytiye lish’ postol’ku, poskol’ku ona yest’ dvizheniye samoutverzhdeniya, ili poskol’ku ona yest’ oposredstvovaniye stanovleniya dlya sebya inoyu. Substantsiya kak sub”yekt yest’ chistaya prostaya negativnost”, i imenno poetomu ona yest’ razdvoyeniye prostogo, ili protivopolagayushcheye udvoyeniye, kotoroye opyat’-taki yest’ negatsiya etogo ravnodushnogo razlichiya i yego protivopolozhnosti; tol’ko eto vosstanavlivayushcheyesya ravenstvo ili refleksiya v sebya samoye v inobytii, a ne nekotoroye pervonachal’noye yedinstvo kak takovoye ili neposredstvennoye yedinstvo kak takovoye, — yest’ to, chto istinno. Ono yest’ stanovleniye sebya samogo, krug, kotoryy predpolagayet v kachestve svoyey tseli i imeyet nachalom svoy konets i kotoryy deystvitelen tol’ko cherez svoye osushchestvleniye i svoy konets.

    I wonder how many Russians can understand this text

  10. Why is Cyrillic banned?

  11. To prevent collusion with Russia, I assume.

  12. Banned from LH or banned from the US? 🙂

  13. My best guess is that a certain percentage or a certain length of unbroken non-Latin text triggers an anti-spam heuristic in Akismet. These heuristics are global, as in compiled from all the spam on all the blogs in the world that have Akismet enabled, and I don’t think you can pick and choose — somewhere people (or bots) have started to spam more in Russian, or possibly some other non-Latin script, the weight of the heuristic increases, and willy-nilly Russian is blocked on LH as well, disappearing without notice when you submit.

    If this theory is correct, there should however be a Spam folder on Hat’s comment admin page (not the same as the moderation queue) from where such comments can be rescued.

  14. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    My best guess is that a certain percentage or a certain length of unbroken non-Latin text triggers an anti-spam heuristic in Akismet.
    Explains why my posting of the proem to the Odyssey recently went straight into the bit-bucket.

  15. I sent one word in Cyrillic Mongolia and it disappeared without a trace. Nevertheless, sending comments three times in a row still prompted a warning I was sending comments too fast…

  16. -there should however be a Spam folder on Hat’s comment admin page (not the same as the moderation queue) from where such comments can be rescued.

    Must be the smartest spam on the Internet

  17. Translating Hegel is an exercise in futility.
    He’s impenetrable even in German; a clear and understandable translation would be a mistranslation. 🙂

  18. I sent one word — Well, I was forced to change my ‘name’ because something had decided that it didn’t like the original one and blocked me for long stretches of time, regardless of the alphabet I was using. It’s really quite unpredictable, and we are but innocents caught in the crossfire of the war between spammers and spamcops.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    I wonder how many Russians can understand this text

    It reads as if it’s almost calqued morpheme by morpheme… which is probably the best you can do with that kind of text.

  20. Ah, that explains why every time I paste a lengthy quote in Chinese or Japanese on the Log, the whole comment disappears. They must have the same technology over there.

  21. an 18 volume set (with various translators) of Nietzsche’s complete works that was originally published back between 1909 and 1913

    I spent much of my freshman year carrying around various volumes of that in the big pockets of my overcoat. At that age, of course, it had little effect except on the overcoat.

  22. there should however be a Spam folder on Hat’s comment admin page (not the same as the moderation queue) from where such comments can be rescued.

    You’re right, it turns out there is, and I just discovered how to access it. And I’m sure that theoretically such comments could be rescued, but I just looked through five pages of it and saw nothing but spam (my jaw was literally hanging open after a while — holy crap there’s a lot of spam), and my sanity would not allow me to keep going until I hit a real comment I could de-spamify. I’m afraid we’ll all just have to put up with our spam-fighting overlords.

    I did, however, run into this text in a spam comment:

    bad feminist essays bargain clothes synonyms and antonyms dictionary english vocal cord paralysis teratmetn hypnosis video sex theories on feminism i beauty makeup women feminizing men

    Hey, you might start out looking for bad feminist essays but then realize what you really wanted was some bargain clothes!

  23. J.W. Brewer says:

    The most intriguing thing about that spam comment was the reference to “teratmetn.” But I was rather disappointed when googling to learn that it was just a previously-attested typo for “treatment” rather than something more exotic.

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    By the way, it turns out that The Young People Today have a page on facebook called “GWF Hegel Dank Meme Stash,” whose motto (epigram? tag-line? what’s the bon mot here?) is “The sublation of the dank and the non dank follows the path of despair.”

  25. Es wird das Jetzt gezeigt, dieses Jetzt. Jetzt; es hat schon aufgehört zu sein, indem es gezeigt wird; das Jetzt, das ist, ist ein anderes als das gezeigte, und wir sehen, daß das Jetzt eben dieses ist, indem es ist, schon nicht mehr zu sein. Das Jetzt, wie es uns gezeigt wird, ist es ein gewesenes, und dies ist seine Wahrheit; es hat nicht die Wahrheit des Seins.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Wow… that begs for being sent through Classical Chinese: “now can show not true now” or something like that.

  27. The Laozi/Hegel mashup is the true mashup.

  28. In the disquisition on Jetzt, isn’t Hegel saying panta rhei, you can’t step into the same river twice, the moment is evanescent, Bleibe doch du bist so schön, etc? it seems like old hat, philosophically speaking. I must be missing something.

  29. The Hegel that can be understood is not the true Hegel.

  30. It cannot be understood, but it can be aufheben-ed.

  31. Is aufheben same word as upheaval in English?

  32. In the disquisition on Jetzt, isn’t Hegel saying panta rhei, you can’t step into the same river twice, the moment is evanescent, Bleibe doch du bist so schön, etc? it seems like old hat, philosophically speaking. I must be missing something.
    That is what I remeber as Popper’s criticism of Hegel – Hegel says little that’s original, but mostly writes “old hat” or even tautologies, made unrecognisable by convoluted, unpenetrable language.

  33. “old hat”

    Watch your language.

  34. No offence was intnded!

  35. It’s OK, I’m on Medicare, you can call me old.

  36. Michael Gierhake says:

    @SFReader

    Yep. Quoth the OED:

    upˈheave, v.

    […uphebban, ME. uphebbe, = OFris. op-, upheva (WFris. opheevje), (M)Du. opheffen, MLG. upheven, LG. upheffen, OHG. ûfhevan (MHG. ûfheben, G. aufheben), MSw. uphäfia, ophävia, etc. (Sw. upphäfva, -häva), (M)Da. ophæve.]

  37. David Marjanović says:

    I must be missing something.

    You’re not. Trust me, you’re not.

    Let me try a reasonably literal translation:

    “The Now is being shown, this Now. Now; it has – in being shown – already ceased to be; the Now which is is a different one from the shown one, and we see that the Now is precisely that – already not to be anymore in being. The Now, as it is being shown to us, is a been one, and this is its truth; it does not have the truth of being.”

    (If I’ve parsed the end of the first sentence correctly – I puzzled over it for a minute –, it could have been said much more clearly. But then it would not have been the true Hegel.)

    The Laozi/Hegel mashup is the true mashup.

    In a Cave Beyond Logic
    Vulcan Perspectives on Plato

    – a book too briefly mentioned in a Star Trek: Voyager episode.

  38. Yes, Japanese philosophers in the 20th century heavily studied German and Nietzsche as well. The Kyoto Circle were renowned for studying European philosophers and many of its members went and studied in Germany or France.

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