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phoebusg's avatar

What editions of philosophic texts do you prefer, why?

Asked by phoebusg (5241points) October 4th, 2010

There are a lot of bad editions and translations of philosophic texts. In some cases, the original is harder (even for native speakers) – Kant for example.

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7 Answers

Carly's avatar

I’m actually trying to find one myself. Maybe this thread might help you.

free_fallin's avatar

Voltaire and Chomsky are my two favorites to read. I wouldn’t classify myself as having a preference, per se, but I can read their works for hours and have without ever wanting to stop. The English versions I’ve found for Voltaire all seem to be fine, for me.

phoebusg's avatar

@Carly cheers, already gone through that thread but appreciate the effort.
@free_fallin and which edition/version of Voltaire do you have – or have read?

free_fallin's avatar

I’ve read everything I could get my hands on by Voltaire. The version of Candide I have is a newer paperback from just last year. His Philosophical Dictionary that I have is a NuVision Publications from 2008. I don’t recall the version for his other works I have read; those I retrieved from the library.

crazyivan's avatar

I speak no German but I’ve always wondered if Neitzche is as beautiful in his original language. From what I’ve been told, it is much better in translation.

As poetic and verbose a language as English is it seems an ideal language for ferreting out philosophy.

Jeruba's avatar

In many or most cases I like to look at two translations: one that stays as close to a literal rendition as possible while accounting for differences between the idioms and conventions of the language and the other that is faithful to the spirit and flavor even if it has to take some liberties with literal sense to create a similar feel in English. The difference is especially important when the language contains symbolism, metaphor, and other poetic devices: to convey the same effect in English, it may be necessary to choose parallel but not identical phrasing or use different figures of speech.

When the original is highly literary, beautifully written and not just prosaically businesslike, I want the same flavor in a translation. For that reason I sometimes choose a very old translation, like from early in the 20th century, even if it doesn’t reflect the latest scholarship.

When possible I like to see a translation alongside the original, on facing pages, even if I can’t actually read the original—for example, if it’s in Sanskrit. It’s amazing how much additional information you can extract from text in a language you don’t know, and even in a written form you can’t read, when there’s a translation beside it.

I also prefer a translation that includes some words of the original, either in the body or in footnotes, especially for key terms and terms that could be translated in several (possibly controversial) ways. When you can see, for example, that the author uses the same German word in two phrases for concepts that might be differently expressed in English, it tells you that there is a close relationship between them. You can also look them up in a German dictionary and see how many possibilities the translator had to choose among; different translators may feel that different choices are correct, and we can be misled when we have our own ideas about the English word.

phoebusg's avatar

@Jeruba thank you for the elaborate response, care to share a few of your favorite editions? Cheers :)

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