new translations

Stephen H. Phillips phillips at
Wed Nov 29 13:23:49 UTC 1995

Apropos the recent discussion of translating into English (and German, etc., I 
suppose, too), I invite criticisms of the translations I have published from 
Gan;ges;a (on tarka, pramaatva, and samavaaya) and from other Navya 
Nyaaya philosophers: CLASSICAL INDIAN METAPHYSICS: Refutations of Realism 
and the Emergence of `New Logic'.  Chicago: Open Court, 1995 (just out, and 
almost as cheap as a Penguin!).  Sanskrit text is provided, so the translations 
are easy to check.

In a note, I say this about translating:

(CIM, p. 361) 			. . . the need of an editor to fill out or 
in, so that the translated material can be read by non-specialists, is the 
origin of the parenthetic expressions included in each of the following nine 
sections of translation.  Bits of background theory are often elliptically 
supposed or referred to by means of propositional anaphora.  I use 
parentheses to supply what, in my judgment, seems essential to 
comprehension of the texts in English.  More extensive elaboration of 
background theories, either presupposed or alluded to, are provided in the 
comments.  In the comments, the author's cogitations are also often restated 
in terms that draw on Western and current philosophy, or I say a few words 
to try to make the author's reasoning come alive in the context of 
contemporary issues.
     I believe that each of the authors rendered has meant everything that I 
have provided in English under the headings ``Text and Translation,'' even the 
long expressions in parentheses.  But in some cases the line between the 
truly implicit and necessary background is hard to draw.  In general, I have 
tried to be as faithful to canons of comprehensibility and good English style 
as to the author's Sanskrit.  The two criteria need not compete, and greater 
elegance in English could by some better writer be achieved, I firmly believe. 

End quotation.

Writing now to indologists, let me add that when I say, "The two criteria need 
not compete," I am talking about an ideal.  In reality, of course, as some 
have pointed out, often a choice has to be made between (a) expressions that 
more closely mirror Sanskrit syntax and (b) expressions that convey the 
meaning more clearly and colloquially in English.  I should not like to try to 
formulate rules covering all cases (especially with poetry, where particular 
ambiguities would ideally be preserved), but I'd have to say that (b) is, 
generally speaking, preferable, so long as the sense of the original is 
conveyed.  (Sometimes a tall order.)  Translation is a craft as well as a 
science.  Of course, I am not being modest when I say, as I did, that a better 
writer (and I meant to imply that there are many) could have achieved 
greater elegance, and, I should have added, clarity.

Again, I welcome criticisms of my new translations.  (I hope I don't regret 
this!)  I should hope to learn something.

Stephen Phillips
Philosophy and Asian Studies
University of Texas at Austin
phillips at

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