December 1: Untranslated translationese

Reading all the way to the end of this excerpt? Moronic!

It's the last month, and just when I can smell the finish line, along comes my least favorite Harvard Classic, Bishop Berkeley:
PHILONOUS. Good morrow, Hylas: I did not expect to find you abroad so early.

It is indeed something unusual; but my thoughts were so taken up with a subject I was discoursing of last night, that finding I could not sleep, I resolved to rise and take a turn in the garden.

Phil. It happened well, to let you see what innocent and agreeable pleasures you lose every morning.
Sure, it sounds like a translation, but, amazingly, it isn't; it was actually written that way. "Would you enjoy a journey to the shop of photography, Hylas?" "I indeed would, but first, I should like to take a meal of breakfast."

And we haven't even gotten to the philosophy yet.

The philosophy could be summed up with, "Again with the perceptions!" The anonymous graduate student or Collier's employee who I like to envision compiling the Daily Reading Guide gets lazy from time to time. We'd gone ages between any readings from the philosophical Volume 37, and now we get two in three days, and my dislike of the bishop has not changed since previous encountering it in April. And, although I'm able to follow it a bit better, that just means I'm more sensitized to when the bishop is trying to pull a fast one:
Phil. Pray, Hylas, what do you mean by a sceptic?

Hyl. I mean what all men mean—one that doubts of everything.

Phil. Whether doth doubting consist in embracing the affirmative or negative side of a question?

Hyl. In neither; for whoever understands English cannot but know that doubting signifies a suspense between both.

Phil. He then that denies any point, can no more be said to doubt of it, than he who affirmeth it with the same degree of assurance.
In other words, "If you deny certainty, then it's you who are certain -- of uncertainty!" It sounds better if you imagine it in Wallace Shawn's voice from "The Princess Bride," but even so it seems at best quasi-clever, no? There's something about this philosophy stuff that seems very college to me, and not in the good, shotgunning beers way, either. (To say nothing concerning the page or so of discussion about what "heat" is.)

My overall conclusion is that reading philosophy is like rewiring your house -- generally a bad idea for the do-it-yourselfer.

No comments: