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Parvis Emad & Kenneth Maly: WESEN


sábado 8 de abril de 2017, por Cardoso de Castro

Translator’s Foreword

I. The Group of Words That Gather Around One Single Word

3. Wesen   and Related Words

One might perhaps say that the words Wesen   and Wesung are the most crucial words for translating Contributions. Therefore, when translating Wesen and Wesung into English, it is of paramount importance to convey the richness, complexity, and subtlety that these words have in German. No other word in the entirety of Contributions offers as varied a possibility for the translator as the word Wesen. Whether Wesen refers to something specific — e.g., language, history, truth — or appears in the context of the first Greek beginning or exercises its disclosive power in conjunction with being and be-ing, each time Wesen comes through with a demand for a different way of being translated. The varied possibilities for translating this word range from a rather simple rendition of it as "essence," when the context is that of the first Greek beginning, to a more difficult rendition when this word says something directly and specifically about being and be-ing and thus borders on untranslat-ability. In short, as a central being-historical word, Wesen in Contributions defies a uniform English rendition.

When Wesen appears in the context of the first beginning, which, among other things, is distinguished by the questions ti estin   (what a being is) and oti estin (that a being is) and by a discussion of idea  , ousia  , koinon  , etc., we consistently translate Wesen as "essence." We do so because, in the context of the first beginning, Heidegger uses the word Wesen as the German rendition of essentia  , in English: essence. But it should be pointed out that this is more than simply using a traditional and available word. For Heidegger’s returning to Wesen as the German rendition of essentia cannot be understood as simply picking up a German word that happens to be available to him as he thinks essentia. The return to Wesen as essentia/essence occurs in the context of a being-historical decision which shapes the entirety of Contributions. This is the decision for opening up and disclosing that unprecedented and monumental unfolding in the thinking of being that is the first beginning. Thus, Wesen is always situated within a broader context, one that the word essence cannot convey.

Thus, sometimes the word Wesen simply means "essentia" or "essence." As a "being-historical word," however, it also discloses a profound and comprehensive occurrence that is the first beginning and in which the word Wesen is not   simply a rendition of essentia (essence). In order to convey that occurrence, Heidegger now uses the same word Wesen but with a significant twist. This "twist" is of paramount importance for the translation of Contributions. He uses Wesen as a word derived from the verb wesen, with meanings such as "’swaying," "enduring," "abiding," "whiling," and the like. He sees in this "swaying" the originary, profound, and comprehensive occurrence that in the first beginning he calls "being." Thus, in order to translate Wesert properly when this word appears in conjunction with being, we were required to account fully for this originary, profound, and comprehensive occurrence.

It should be clear that the rendition "essence of being" is not an option at all, since "essence" refers to a multiplicity of things and being is neither multiple nor a thing. Moreover, the expression "essence of being" misconstrues the originariness of the occurrence of being in the first Greek beginning by reducing this occurrence to one of its offshoots, i.e., the constancy and accessibility of essence. We found other options such as "presence of being" or "coming to presence of being" misleading because, as Heidegger shows in Contributions, presence is only one modification of that vibrancy which he calls das Wesen des Seins. Moreover, "presence of being" and "coming to presence of being" have the added disadvantage of attributing to being the status of something that is before it becomes present or before it comes into presence. These renditions encourage misunderstanding being as a substance. What was needed was an English word that leaves intact its possible modifications and determinations.

In order to translate the word Wesen as it reflects the originary, profound, and comprehensive vibrancy called being, we might have translated Wesen as "abiding, enduring sway" or "in-depth-sway." Given the awkwardness of "abiding, enduring, in-depth-sway," we allowed Wesen to be translated as "essential sway." This is possible only because the English word essential has a broader usage than simply its connection to and derivation from "essence." So that "essential" can mean "carrying the whole within itself," "inherent," "through," "belonging inherently to," "inmost" — perhaps even, "in-depth."

Thus rendering Wesen as "essential sway" is less than ideal   (since there is an etymological hint at a connection with the word essence, a connection that is completely inappropriate in Contributions), though perhaps acceptable, given the connotations of the word essential: carrying the whole sway within itself, inherent sway, inmost sway, belonging inherently to sway, or: in-depth-sway. This fact allowed us to translate the adjective wesentlich as "essential."

"Essential sway" has nothing to do with "essence" and everything to do with what inheres within the sway of being in its originary, profound, comprehensive vibrancy and resonance. Using the word essential while calling on the reader to ignore the word’s etymological root-word, essence, is a risk that we had to decide to take.

In attempting to translate Wesung, another word that appears in conjunction with being and be-ing, we were guided by Heidegger’s return to the word Wesen in its power to say what is utterly other than "essence." In this respect Wesen and Wesung say the same thing. However, since Heidegger uses Wesung mostly — and, it should be said, inconsistently — in conjunction with be-ing (Seyn  ), differentiation in the translation was necessary. Gathering all of these aspects together, we have consistently translated Wesen as "essential sway" and Wesung as "essential swaying"; Wesen des Seins as "essential sway of being" and Wesung des Seins as "essential swaying of being"; and Wesen des Seyns as "essential sway of be-ing" and Wesung des Seyns as "essential swaying of be-ing."

Further, the word Wesen in Contributions sometimes serves yet another function, appearing in the context where identifying the specificity and peculiarity of certain things is at issue, for example, language or modernity. Here Heidegger uses the word Wesen as denoting das Eigenste einer Sache  , what is ownmost to something. In cases such as these we translated Wesen consistently with "what is ownmost."

In contrast to the prevailing practice of translating Wesen in these cases also as "essence," its rendition with "what is ownmost" is a philosophically more correct and viable rendition. Thus, considering the expression das Wesen der Sprache  , we find that this expression can be brought into English accurately with what is ownmost to language rather than with the essence of language. Here Wesen does not name what is "common" to all languages, i.e., to a multiplicity, and cannot be translated with "essence," i.e., with a concept whose philosophical viability, like the Greek koinon, is predicated upon a multiplicity. Accordingly, we translated das Wesen der Sprache as "what is ownmost to language."

Furthermore, we opted for "what is ownmost" rather than "essence" because we realized that this expression opens up a domain that is not the same as the domain opened up by "essence," i.e., the domain of universality. For example, what is ownmost to Dasein   is "existence," which is not the domain of the universality of essence because, unlike "essence," existence of Dasein is a matter of experience and enactment. And this means that existence of Dasein is as little an essentialist determination of Dasein as Dasein’s existentiality is an existentialist determination of it.

Finally, Contributions presents certain cases where Wesen indicates neither "essence" of something nor "what is ownmost" to something nor "essential sway," but "a way of being" of something. Heidegger has in mind, for example, "a people’s way of being" when he talks about a "Volk  … unbestimmt genug in seinem Wesen". We translated this sentence as "the people .. . however undetermined in its way of being," because here Volk is at issue and not Volker and because Volk does not immediately refer to the first beginning and because Volk as "undetermined" precludes application of a determination to it as "what is ownmost." To elucidate: The singularity of Volk circumvents the applicability of "essence" — which is always predicated upon a multiplicity. Further, Volk does not-at least not immediately-refer to the first beginning, which means that Wesen here is not used as the German rendition of essentia. Finally Wesen here does not refer to what is ownmost to something (people), because what is ownmost to something is a determination that cannot be said to be undetermined. Thus Wesen here is translated as "way of being."

Having proceeded in this way with regard to Wesen, we found that translation of Unwesen needed to avoid the variants of the word essence. Thus we translated das Unwesen der Wahrheit   as what is not ownmost to truth. Rendition of Unwesen with "what is not ownmost" is philosophically more accurate than the available options such as "non-essence," "negatived coming to presence," and "disessence." First, this rendition is based on a dear distinction between "essence" and "what is ownmost," which allows an understanding of the specificity and peculiarity of individual things without assuming in advance that these things must have an essence and must fit into the constancy of essence. (There is a significant difference between assuming that truth has an essence and searching for what is ownmost to truth. When we say for example, that correctness is not what is ownmost to truth, we say that what is ownmost to truth cannot be determined in terms of correctness. We are not saying that truth has an essence that can be determined by discarding and rejecting correctness.) Secondly, this rendition is based on the realization that the word Wesen in the word Unwesen is not the German translation of essentia but rather an indication of peculiarity and specificity of things in terms of what is ownmost to them. Accordingly, this translation of Unwesen avoids the complicated and misleading route of using a negative form of essence.

These varied ways of translating Wesen determined our approach to the problem of translating the words that are related to Wesen. These appear in Contributions in the form of compounds whose translation requires that the segment Wesen in the compound be translated in the specific ways that this word is translated when it appears alone in the text  . Depending then on what the word Wesen indicates, the compounds are variously rendered. This is another way of saying that here, too, a uniform rendition cannot be achieved. Whereas, for example, the compound Wesensmoglichkeit is translated as essential possibility, the compound Wesensmitte is translated as swaying mid-point. Likewise, the context makes clear that Wesensgewinnung des Menschen needs a rendition such as gaining of man’s way of being because the context makes dear that Wesen in this compound indicates way of being.