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sans sein

February 11, 2011

I had understood Heidegger’s text without knowing from which ground his philosophy was born and built and developed. And this ground of metaphysics was quite unknown to me. And I couldn’t see why Heidegger had tried obstinately, again and again, to destroy the tradition of metaphysics. And this was not understandable for a Japanese student. In order to destroy the tradition of metaphysics, the tradition must be there.

Further, I have got another problem or task or question, namely, for Heidegger, he starts from the German word “Sein” [Being]. In German, the substantive noun ‘Sein’ is also to be used as verb sein. And Heidegger says if the word ‘sein’ falls down, vanishes, we cannot speak, we cannot talk, we cannot understand anything. Sein. So the word ‘sein’ is decisive. And during the translation of a similar word from Greek into Latin, esse, something decisive was lost. According to Heidegger.

Now, I had to reflect on the Japanese language. In Japanese translations of Being and Time, there are two translations for the word ‘sein’ For one decisive word, there are two translations. What does it mean for other philosophical problems?

And in Chinese, there is no copula. Can you imagine how a language is spoken and written without copula? In Chinese, only one form of the verb is used for future, present and past. And once sentence can be made and is made without copula. Where is ‘sein’?

Heidegger says that language is the house of being. This means that there is nothing which cannot be expressed with a language. Everything which we think, which we think about or which we communicate, is spoken or written. Without language, we cannot express anything. So language is the house of being.

What kind of house is Chinese language and Japanese language? The house must be different from the European house. I must continue my questions. On what ground should I think? On the European ground, Heidegger could think in his way. But if his text is translated into English, there are two words for ‘sein’. In Chinese, there is no word for ‘sein’. And, you know, the text Being and Time is translated into Chinese. There are two translations. And the translator must have had enormous difficulties translating this word, ‘sein’.

So that is an impossible translation. With the translation, nothing is translated, except something which is not important. That is the secret of philosophical thinking.  (read)

Ryosuke Ohashi

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