Quite The Translation…

From the “Translator’s Preface” of Aristotle’s Metaphysics: Books Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, translated by Montgomery Furth (one of my assigned readings this semester in the Torrey Honors Institute):

There already exists a good English translation of the Metaphysics, that of Ross. Why then put forward the concoction that follows? Because for some purposes, a good English translation is not what is needed.

The aim of this rendering of four of the central books is to make available to the reader as exactly and as literally as possible what is in Aristotle’s text as we have it. No translation can simultaneously attain that aim and be in good English; Aristotle’s text is terse and elliptical, and reads like cipher. Here is one famous sample:

“And first, let us say a few things about it formulawise, that the what it is to be of each thing is that which is said in respect of itself. For the being for you is not the being for musical; for you are not musical in respect of yourself. Therefore, that which in respect of yourself. (Zeta 4)”

I’m all for formal equivalence, but this is crazy. Oh, goody. I can’t wait to read it…

  1. February 2nd, 2011

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