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Well, here’s a very preliminary draft of a translation of the Preface. The footnotes are all translations of MP’s footnotes, but the endnotes and the comments are all translators notes, including a number of substantive notes that discuss issues concerning translational, interpretational, and philosophical issues. Comments welcome…


RE: “replacer” and “appeler”

Two comments:

  1. On page i, in your 2nd comment, you wonder whether MP’s “replace” might not mean “substitute” rather than “re-place.” It seems to me that there is a different word for “substitute” in French, namely “remplacer,” so it’s likely that MP chose “replacer” because he meant “re-place.”

  2. On page ii, in your 13th comment, you draw attention to the phrase, “si jamais histoire a appelé notre interpretation, c’est bien l’histoire de la philosophie.â€? I find this whole sentence pretty puzzling. But I wonder if MP might not have meant that the history of philosophy calls for interpretation, rather than that it directs our intepretation in some determinate way. This seems to me a more natural reading of the French, and it also seems to make more sense in light of the first clause of the sentence. Why emphasize in the first clause that we get out of texts only what we put into them, and then follow that by saying that this particular “text,” the history of philosophy, actively directs our interpretation of it?

    There is a sense in which the history of philosophy directs our interpretation more than any other history, since it is largely a history of interpretation, and our readings of texts are always shaped by those of our predecessors. But that doesn’t seem to be what MP is talking about in this paragraph; he seems to be arguing for an imaginative interpretation of texts, not as against an overly traditional interpretation, but as against an overly literal one. On my alternate reading, the history of philosophy, more than any other, calls for our interpretation, i.e. for us to get something out of it by putting something into it.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure this sentence entirely makes sense on the reading I’m proposing, either.

I think this blog is a great idea. Hope you don’t mind my putting in my two cents.

Noah Moss Brender
Philosophy PhD student
Boston College

Noah: Thanks for your suggestions. I think you are right about replace meaning “re-place,” or “place back into.” The more I think about “substitute” the less sense it makes. And you are certainly right to note the relation between replacer and remplacer. I’d forgotten about that. Now we all need to go back and make sure there are no early editions that include the “m!” I have two editions: one printed on 12 February, 1969 and one that is I believe later than that (I’ll check the date when I get back to the office). If anyone has an earlier edition, perhaps they could check.

I also find your suggestion about interpretation very interesting. I’ll think about it more.

I’ve been reading through the preface and so far I can mostly say, “Bravo!” It reads better than Smith’s translation and is certainly more coherent. A few points, though, from this lowly undergrad who is studying MP. Let me preface this by saying that I don’t know a word of French, so my comments are largely based on basic editing and the comprehensibility of the English.

  1. On page 5 (vi of the French) you provide a translation for Sinn-gebung in a footnote, but provide nothing for hyle. Could you please give something for those of us who have no clue what the word means?

  2. On the same page, it might be my ignorance, but I don’t understand the use of “meaning world.” Do you mean, perhaps, that “the world would be nothing other than the “meaningful world”“? I think you might be providing a direct translation, but its meaning is escaping me.

  3. At the end of page 5 (vi), you do not title-case “other” in the first sentence of the last paragraph. Is this because MP doesn’t? “Other” is consistently put in title-case before (and even later in the same paragraph), so it seems odd that it is lowercase here. The same happens on page 6 (vii) in the sentence that begins, “The Cogito.”

  4. Very minor editing thing: you have two spaces between “order” and “for” in the same paragraph mentioned above.

  5. Same page/paragraph, in the sentence beginning with, “But the cogitatio,” is the “thus” needed? Seems superfluous.

  6. On 6 (viii), the same question as in 2 above on “meaning world.” It feels awkward and I can’t tell the meaning from the sentence.

  7. Same page/paragraph as above, could you provide a translator’s note on the meaning of “en rapport ”? It might be best to assume the ignorance of the reader (as I’m admitting ignorance here; it might be commonly understood by everyone but me).

  8. On 7 (viii), the last sentence is quite long. Any chance of shorting it a tad?

  9. A punctuation issue: place a comma after “sich einströmen” (page 7 [top of ix]).

  10. Same page/paragraph as above: is it “the unreflective point of view” that is “constant and final”? Also, try not to have two versions of “final” in the same sentence.

  11. Page 9 (xi), “the world’s frame” seems a strange phrase. Would “structure” or perhaps “form” work? I imagine it is intending an idealistic creation of the world, correct?

  12. Next page, same paragraph: the second “for” doesn’t seem necessary. Simply, “I would be looking for what makes it possible instead of what it is” should work.

  13. Page 11 (xiii), place a comma after the subordinate clause ending with “notion of intentionality.”

  14. Page 12 (xiv), take out the comma after “(Sinngenesis).” Also, shouldn’t that be itallicized?

Overall a great read (especially when compared with Smith’s translation). I look forward to future installments. Just trying to help… :o)

Hello. As a fan of both you and M-P, I offer a couple of friendly suggestions after reading the first few pages.

p. ii — si jamais histoire a appelé notre interpretation, c’est bien l’histoire de la philosophie.

  • You write: “if ever a history has directed our interpretation of it, it is the history of philosophyâ€?
  • I propose: “if any history has ever called for interpretation (or ‘called on us to interpret it’), it is certainly philosophy’s history.â€? (Following and amending Noah’s suggestion; btw, hi, Noah.)

p. iv — il lui appartient de reconnaître en deça de ses propres opérations le monde qui est donné au sujet

  • You write: “it behooves it to recognize the world that is given to the subject as having power over its own operations, because the subject is given to himselfâ€?
  • I propose: “to this act (or ‘this reflection’?) belongs the recognition, beneath (or ‘prior to’) its own functioning, of the world that is given to the subject, for the subject [too] is given to itself.â€?

Here are some comments on the first paragraph (no doubt by now some or all of these have already been made off-blog) :

In the second sentence, as is so often the case, it is more idiomatically correct to render “on� by “we,� the use of “one� tending to result in misleadingly stilted formulations : “It may seem strange that we still have to ask this question […]�

Elsewhere I contributed to the discussion concerning the term “replacer.� What Merleau-Ponty is referring to here is the primacy of facticity over essence implicit in Husserl’s reduction to the Lebenswelt - what is in question is the apparent tension between the aim (eidetic science) and the ground (facticity) of phenomenology. The possible objection to which Merleau-Ponty is giving voice is thus the dubiousness of approaching the question of essences on an existential basis. Hence there is something a bit misleading about more literal English formulations like “places essences back in(to) existence.� Perhaps this is the best we can manage. But I do think that a case can be made for something like “locates essences in…,� where the content and, especially, the emphatically contrastive structure of both the sentence and the paragraph as a whole would be relied upon to impart to the verb the (here, subtle) connotations implied by the “re-� of “replacer.�

Some lines down, note that the plural “vécus� modifies all of space, time and the world at once.

A little further, I would render “lever� by “resolve� or “do away with,� the point being that there would be no contradictions if the unity of phenomenology were to be sacrificed in the indicated way. And here vouloir should be read in the sense of trying (not wanting) – in this Smith was correct. “Voudra-t-on lever ces contradictions en distinguant entre […] ?� would read much better if rendered thus : “Shall we try to resolve these contradictions by distinguishing between […]?�

A little further, Merleau-Ponty uses the term “explicitation,� which you render – strangely – as “interpretation.� Your comment suggests that you’ve read “explication�, although even that doesn’t translate as “interpretation� (I see no grounds at all for using this term). “Explicitation� is a good word which, unfortunately, has yet to be officially anglicized. Nonetheless, it is crucial that the root “explicit� appear in the translation – if not by following Smith’s “explicit account,� then perhaps “explicit development.�

In the second footnote, it is imperative not to translate “rédigée� as “edited� – not only is that a bad translation, but as a matter of fact Fink wrote the VI.Cartesianische Meditation, and there is little doubt that Merleau-Ponty knew that. (To be sure, Fink did so as Husserl’s assistant, in the context of the ultimately unsuccessful effort to revise CM; but he did later submit it as his Habilitationsschrift.) To this extent, the term “rédigée� should be translated as “written� or “composed� (both of which correspond to normal senses of the verb rédiger). However, there is the possibility that Merleau-Ponty was being a tad shifty here, since the point of the paragraph is to locate the contradictions of phenomenology squarely in Husserl alone (after all, he could have simply written “un écrit inédit d’Eugen Fink�). If so, then the weaker “drafted� might be the optimal rendering.

Also, rather than following Smith in the final clause, I think this should read : “which G. Berger kindly made available to us.�

For the sentence on page ii — si jamais histoire a appelé notre interpretation, c’est bien l’histoire de la philosophie — how about simply: “If ever history has called for our interpretation, it is certainly the history of philosophy.”


Hi Sean,

I have an edition printed 27th March, 1963. It also has ‘replace’ and not ‘remplace’.

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