Rajaram's PILTDOWN horse

Claude Setzer cssetzer at MUM.EDU
Fri Aug 4 15:48:45 EDT 2000

From: Subrahmanya S. <subrahmanyas at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Friday, August 04, 2000 1:27 PM
Subject: Re: Rajaram's PILTDOWN horse

> On the other hand -
> What happens when a person indulges in mistranslations
> of passages in order to prove ones point or theory ?
> Is it any less objectionable ?

I would not venture to say whether it is because of arrogance or "laziness"
or just plain carelessness, but it is clear that it is a COMMON experience
for us to find a highly respected author making WRONG assumptions in the
process of "translating" a text, and as a result, makes many mistakes in
that "translation." Even to the point of making the so called translation
into more of a commentary than a true translation.

I would agree with Subrahmanya that THIS is every bit as bad, perhaps even
WORSE than this issue of horses and bulls. After all, what difference does
it make whether the seal is a horse or a bull??? Does that change the
philosophy/translation of, say, a major Upanishad???

I would think a wrong translation of, say, an Upanishad, would be MUCH more
of an important issue for Indology than the identity of a seal.

I propose three reasons why no one complains about this.

1) we do not want to offend our friends who are fellow teachers.
2) "we" as teachers are too lazy or too busy to actually look carefully at
the books we use for teaching.
3) At least some of the people who are so loud in their complaints about
others mouthing off "out of their profession" so to speak, are the ones that
are doing exactly that!! Perhaps these people that are so eager to yell
critical names at others are not even familiar with the "sloppiness" of some
western scholars that are Indologists and in the profession of teaching this
material to others.

It is obvious that at least some "Indoologsts" could benefit immensely by
talking with native traditionalists before publishing some of their
incorrect translations. It is true that a person outside of a tradition can
sometimes be more objective, but it is also true that a person outside of
the tradition that uses a text can totally corrupt the translation by
missing the point of the text. After all, these texts WERE written/created
for the purpose of being used within a tradition, not for the sake of later
"translation" that ignores the original context.

Perhaps we should all calm down a bit and try to treat others with the
respect that we would like to enjoy.

Claude Setzer

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