zu einer projektirten Uebersetzung Hume's.
Kaum wage ich es, dem erleuchteten philosophischen Publikum unsrer Tage diese neue Verteutschung populär philosophischer Schriften Hume's vorzulegen, da selbiges auf einem Gipfel steht, von welchem es nicht nur auf die weiland berühmten französischen Philosophen, wie Helvetius, d'Alembert, Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau mit merklicher Geringschätzung herabsieht als auf beschränkte und verstockte raisonneurs, sondern auch die Engländer des vorigen Jahrhunderts nicht viel höher anschlägt.
Auch ist nicht zu zweifeln, daß Hume selbst sich wohl der Mühe überhoben hätte, gegen die natürliche Religion und ihre Hauptwahrheiten Zweifel und Argumente in langen Abhandlungen und Dialogen auseinanderzusetzen, und dann wieder die Verteidigung jener zu führen, um Gründe und Gegengründe mühselig abzuwägen und dadurch dem Glauben an jene Wahrheiten eine feste Grundlage vorzubereiten, – wenn schon zu seiner Zeit die glänzende philosophische Entdeckung unsrer Tage gemacht worden wäre, ich meine die große Entdeckung, daß Vernunft von Vernehmen kommt, und daher das Vermögen ist zu Vernehmen und zwar Offenbarungen zu vernehmen, Offenbarungen des Uebersinnlichen, Göttlichen u. s. f., die alle reflektirende und räsonnirende Untersuchung über solche Gegenstände unnütz machen. Dieserhalb bekenne ich, daß ich den philosophischen Zeitgenossen gegenwärtige Uebersetzung keineswegs vorlege als ein Buch zur Belehrung, sondern bloß als ein Mittel mehr, ihre eigene Größe und die Höhe ihres Standpunkts zu ermessen, damit sie sich ergötzen mögen:
»Zu sehen wie vor uns ein weiser Mann gedacht
Und wie wir's denn zuletzt so herrlich weit gebracht.«
Dasselbe gilt auch in Hinsicht des Vortrags. Hume würde den seinigen, wenn er die heutige philosophische Periode zu erleben das Glück gehabt hätte, ohne Zweifel verbessert haben, er würde jene Klarheit, Faßlichkeit, Bestimmtheit und anziehende Lebendigkeit, die ihm eigen sind, abgeworfen und dagegen sich bestrebt haben, ein geheimnißvolles Dunkel über seine Schriften zu verbreiten, durch schwerfällige und endlos verschlungene Perioden, gesuchte seltsame Ausdrücke und selbstgemachte Worte den Leser gleich Anfangs zu verdutzen und im weitern Fortgang ihn zu zwingen, sich zu wundern, wie er so viel hat lesen können, ohne auch nur eines Gedankens habhaft zu werden, wodurch dem Leser der Glaube entsteht, daß je weniger er bei dem Text denken kann, desto mehr der Autor gedacht habe. Also auch in dieser Hinsicht wird der philosophische Leser unsrer Zeit mit wohlbehaglichem Stolz auf diesen Koryphäen einer vergangenen zurückzublicken den Genuß haben.
Was nun endlich meinen Beruf zu dieser kleinen Arbeit betrifft, so liegt er bloß darin, daß mir seit meinem Aufenthalt in England im Knabenalter die Englische Sprache sehr geläufig ist, und ich eben gar viel Muße übrig habe, indem ich der Bearbeitung meiner eigenen Gedanken für die Mittheilung mich überhoben achte, da nun die Erfahrung bestätigt hat, was ich früher voraussah und voraussagte, daß solche unter den Zeitgenossen keine Leser finden.
To Thomas Campbell, Esq. London
Having understood by the public papers that an association for the encouragement of Literature has been formed in London which has its object to purchase the copyrights of meritorious works lacking a publisher and that you, Sir, are one of the chief promoters and Directors of this laudable institute, I take the liberty of laying before you a case that seems to fall within the aforesaid category.
It concerns an English translation of Kant's principal works, which I have been contemplating these many years, but could not effectuate for want of a publisher or literary acquaintance in England. A year ago I made my proposal to an eminent English bookseller, but was refused.
Whatever may be your own notions about German philosophy, you certainly will allow that merely to judge by the deep and lasting influence which Kant's writings are exercising these 50 years on German literature and German opinions in general, as well as by the wide spread and unaltered fame of that philosopher, he must have been a most extraordinary genius, and that consequently his writings are well worth a nearer acquaintance than by vague reports and secondhand information. I for my part, who have spent all my life in metaphysical studies believe him to be the greatest philosopher that ever lived and think him and Goethe the only first rate geniuses that Germany ever produced. Moreover as his philosophy sprung forth from Locke's and Hume's speculations, or at least sets out from them, it is quite apt to fix the attention of English readers: as also, in another respect, because it throws a light upon some tenets of the Hindoo and Buddhaistic faith, now generally known in England. And generally on account of its intrinsic value I do not doubt that being transplanted to England it would by and by exercise a deep influence on the literature and the opinions in general of that nation, so that the transfer of Kantian philosophy to England might even by time come to be considered as an event of historical importance. In this view I have been confirmed by several passages in your foreign reviews, expressing a longing for an able translation of Kant's works, together with a sense of the immense difficulty of the task.
All this, I suppose, you will easily admit. But another question is, how I, being a German, should venture to offer myself for making an English translation, a proposal that at first sight may seem strange, yet I verily believe, that, all things well poised, there hardly can be found a man more proper for that task than myself. To make you understand why this should be the case I am in the necessity of acquainting you a little with myself, for I cannot suppose my literary character to have reached you. But as you have no reason whatever to lend an implicit faith to my statements concerning myself, I must contrive as much as possible to bring forth only such as may be verified by evidence accessible even to you.
I am since 10 years a teacher of Logic and Metaphysics in the university of this capital, as you may satisfy yourself by our Catalogus lectionum inserted every Easter and Michaelmas (semester) in each of the German critical Journals in 4°. I am 42 now and have spent all my life in metaphysical studies: after having read the chief philosophers, all in their original languages, I attached myself particulary to Kant to whom I certainly give the preference over any other. I grafted on his my own system, which appeared 1819 bearing the title »Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung« – to this belongs a long appendix containing »a Critic of the Kantian philosophy«, which you may find quoted in all the more modern books on Kantian or German philosophy in general, as for instance in the last editions of Tennemann's Epitome of the hist. of Metaphysics 1830, Reinhold hist. of Metaphysics Vol. 2. 1830 and the like. A respectable theological writer, Baumgarten Crusius in his recent work on Christian morals (Lehrbuch der christl. Sittenlehre 1826 p. 119) where he gives a short sketch of the Kantian philosophy, among all the writings on Kant's philosophy (which you will be aware fall not much short of a thousand) selects but two for recommendation to his readers viz: Reinhold's letters on the Kantian philosophy of 1790 and my aforesaid critic of 1819.
My system itself has not attracted the general attention in the degree I expected and still I think it will one day do so; and as I see you ready to believe that there is nobody to share this opinion of mine, I am compelled to mention that our highly celebrated humoristical writer Jean Paul in the very last of his works »Kleine Bücherschau«, 1825, mentioning a few books that in the course of the last twenty years did not meet with the general applause they deserved especially speaks of mine (Vol. 2, p. 203 of the original edition, or in the collection of his works completed 1830 Vol. 5 p. 72), and I must even get the better of my modesty so far as to translate that he calls it »a work of philosophical genius, bold, universal, full of penetration and profoundness«. As all German books are to be had in London, you may verify these quotations or have them verified by another. In my opinion the praise of one man of genius fully makes good the neglect of a thoughtless multitude. Finally if you should choose to make my direct acquaintance even if it were in Latin, there is a treatise of mine »Theoria colorum physiologica eademque primaria«, inserted in » Script. ophtal. min. ed. Just. Radius Vol.3 1830«.
As to my knowledge of the English language I owe it chiefly to having received part of my education in England – where I was even for a while a parlour boarder at the Revd Mr. Lancasters in Wimbledon in 1803 – further to a good deal of English reading ever since, and lastly to having lived very much in English company on the continent. My English accent is such as to my having been frequently mistaken by Englishmen for their countryman at first acquaintance, though I confess that usually in the course of half an hour they would be undeceived.
English books, no doubt, ought to be written by Englishmen. But our case is of a particular nature: it is the reverse of all ordinary cases, in this, that the greater difficulty lies in the understanding of the text, not in the rendering of its purport. Now, though there are a few Englishmen, that know German very well indeed, still I entertain very great doubts whether any one of them knows it in so eminent a degree as to understand perfectly and without any mistake even merely the verbal sense of Kant's writings: yet granting even this to be the case still it would be very far from enabling such a one to be Kant's translator. A merely verbal translator would very often be excessively incorrect and write things either without any sense at all or with quite a false one of his own making. In order to translate Kant it is absolutely required to have penetrated his meaning to the very bottom nay even to be deeply imbued with his doctrine, and this is impossible without having made a profound study of his philosophy during many years: for it is universally allowed that even few Germans truly understand Kant and no one ever penetrated his meaning at first reading: it is only by and by that the student gets into the train of his ideas and is grasping the genuine sense of his positions, as his meditations are the profoundest that ever entered into man's mind: and if his style is obscure, it is chiefly so by the immense depth of his thoughts. But in compensation of this, whoever got into the right understanding of Kant's discoveries, finds his mind quite altered, he now views all things in another light, he smiles on your disputes about spirit and matter, knowing that there is no such thing as spirit, but no such thing as matter neither; they are erroneous notions; likewise on your queries about a future state or the beginning of the world, knowing time to be ideal, not real, and so on. Locke's, Hume's and Reid's disquisitions on the human mind (not to mention the most shallow Dugald Steward or the equally shallow French Ideologists) bear to Kant's the proportion of juvenile prolusions, or that of elementary Geometry to the analysis infinitorum.
If however any Englishman, that has made during life metaphysics his only pursuit, knows German so perfectly as to have been enabled to make a proper and continued study of Kant's works and can give public evidence of his having truly understood their import, such a one no doubt, will be fittest to translate them and most willingly do I resign the task to him. But if it should happen, that such a man were not to be met with, then I am apt to think that I alone am the proper man: because I doubt very much that any of our german metaphysicians knows English so well as I do: moreover very few or perhaps none of those yet alive have so firmly and strictly adhered to Kant as I did and have made like me his works the main point of their erudition.
These are the reasons why I feel in myself the vocation to be his apostle in England and dare to claim the honour of it.
I do not doubt but that my English writing be deficient in several respects, that it may sometimes have a foreign taint, that even some faults against grammar or against orthography may occur; the latter of which must be accounted for by my having had a hundred times more occasion to read or speak English than to write it, and a part of my deficiencies would quite disappear if I were to dictate instead of writing myself. Yet for all that I know well enough the exact meaning and import of every English term or phrase and have a pretty store of them at command: moreover my just mentioned deficiencies may be very well supplied by any philosophically learned Englishman who would take upon himself the task of correcting my manuscript, clearing it from all grammatical faults or improprieties of speech and improving the style and elegance of expression. He ought however to confine himself entirely to the linguistical and stylistical part of the business, carefully avoiding whatever alterations might in the least affect the sense: nor would I for my own sake ever venture to see my English printed without its having previously undergone such a purification. Still I am very well aware that even so the work will hardly attain that degree of elegance and pleasing conciseness which it might acquire if originally penned by an Englishman. But there is nothing perfect under the Sun, and by the above stated view of the case you conceive, that every individual qualified in one respect for being Kant's English translator will always be found deficient in another: but then, what is, in a work of this nature, a little deficiency in point of elegance and style compared to one in point of correctness and accuracy? I would accordingly venture to say, that my deficiency seems very inconsiderable if compared to that of an English translator who without having previously penetrated Kant's opinions in general, now sits staring at a passage he does not know what to make of, till he gets rid of it by putting in its stead some commonplace-thought of his own store, though expressed in very choice English. On the whole therefore I believe that the way I propose is the only one to bring forth to light a creditable English translation of Kant: nay I might even presume to say that the possibility of it is a rare chance not to be foregone, as, for all I know, a century may pass ere than shall again meet in the same head so much Kantian philosophy with so much English as happen to dwell together in this grey one of mine: wherefore I consider myself in a manner as in duty bound to offer my service to the English public, verily more for the advancement of knowledge and truth than for my own emolument: if my proffer be rejected, neither the fault nor the greater loss shall be mine.
In translating I would adhere as closely as possible to Kant's words, yet a thoroughly verbal translation would not be to the purpose, as our language has a far greater grammatical perfection and richer store of words than the English, of which advantages Kant availed himself to the utmost extent, being pleased moreover to deliver his abstruse cogitations in intricate and perplexedly twisted periods of an immense length: all the which would never agree with the English Idiom: therefore his periods must be resolved in shorter one's and the style generally simplified. I hope to effect this to my own satisfaction and by pursuing this plan to render Kant even more intelligible in English than he is in German: for I am naturally fond of clearness and precision, and Kant by the bye was not. Moreover I have a great subsidy in this that bearing always the whole of his doctrine in mind, I can explain what he says in one place by what he said in many others. I therefore would add an introductory preface and some short explanatory notes, wherever any particular obscurity occurs or reference to his other writings is made – but chiefly elucidating terms that might be used in some rather uncommon signification: for never will there be a Kant without some cant. It's odd enough that Sterne made a prophetical pun saying in Tristram Shandy »of all the cants which are canted in this canting world the cant of criticism« (the common name in Germany for Kant's philosophy) »is the most tormenting«. I observe that Kant changed the original C of his name in a K.
Just to make the experiment I have translated a short passage which I shall annex to this letter as a specimen. It is taken from the »Prolegomena to all future Metaphysics« and of a nature to be in some measure understood even out of context, giving moreover a hint at the proportion his philosophy bears to Locke's and the like.
1)The Critic of pure reason, 1781, in the 5th edit.: 882 pages, 8°. (the 7th appeared 1829);
2)Prolegomena to every future system of Metaphysics, that shall be able to come forth as a science, 1783, 222 pages, 8°.;
3)The Critic of Judgement, 1790, 482 p., 8°.
All his other writings are of less importance, though with much difference: the next in rank to the mentioned are the metaphysical principles of natural philosophy 1786 182 pag. and the Critic of practical reason 1788, 292 p. Some of his latest works are very weak.
As the Critic of pure reason after its appearance experienced a total neglect from the public, Kant, in order to rouse the attention towards it understanding that neglect to be partly owing to the bulk and the obscurity of the critic, wrote the Prolegomena in which he exhibits again the chief tenets of his philosophy, but in another arrangement, simplified and rendered more intelligible, in order to conquer the fastidiousness of the public: saying himself in it, that here he teaches briefly by the analytical method, what he had expounded more at large by the synthetical method in the Critic.
Hence there is not the least doubt that the translation of the Prolegomena must precede that of the Critic, being as it were the Epitome thereof and made on purpose to allure the attention of the public. Moreover it will serve to try the liking of the English public for Kant's compositions, giving them a foretaste thereof. It also puts the publisher into little expence, being very short.
However great be the interest I take in the propagation of my great master's doctrine, I cannot be expected to undertake so laborious a task and to make so considerable a sacrifice of time without any pecuniary retribution. I therefore must also settle this point. As I cannot know what size of print and paper the publisher may choose, I will take the German original for my standard, giving my explanatory notes into the bargain. My demand then is for the translation of every printed German sheet (or 16 pages) of the ancient original edition in 8vo: 15 Prussian dollars, payable here, at delivery of the M.S. This, at the average exchange of 7 Dollars for £ 1, amounts nearly to £ 2. 3 s. – a sheet, giving about £ 30 for the whole Prolegomena. Moreover it should be settled in the contract that I am to receive half this price anew at every following edition.
I think the terms moderate, considering the difficulty of the task and my quite particular qualification for it: at least I would never do it for any thing less, nor for so much neither, were it not for the sake of truth and Kant. But if you can get me a better bargain I shall be very thankful to you.
After all I said I need not protest that I would work con amore and use every possible exertion for the glory of Kant's name and the credit of my own; therefore I would wish to work leisurely at the rate of only 4 sheets a month: I can translate the Prolegomena in 3 months; for the Critic I want a year.
If these main points should be agreed to, I would subjoin the more particular stipulations and beg of you to have the contract drawn up in a legal form and signed by the publisher.
It is, Sir, from your zeal for the propogation of truth and knowledge that I hope you will take upon you the trouble of finding a publisher for Kant's works in English, provided that I have succeeded in satisfying you that I am particularly fit to be his translator.
I beg, Sir, you will excuse the liberty I took and the length of this letter. If you are pleased to honour me with an answer, it will reach me by post without any nearer direction.
I am, Sir, with the peculiar esteem due to your genius and merits, your most humble and obedient servant
Prolegomena, p. 63:
Whatsoever is to be manifested to us as an object, must be manifested to our perception. But all our perceptions are effected by the means of our senses: for the understanding does not perceive intuitively, it only reflects. Now as by what has been hitherto proved, the senses never nor even in any respect whatever, manifest to our cognizance the things as they are in themselves, but merely their appearances, which are no more than the ideas of our sensitive faculty, it follows »that we must deem all the bodies, along with the space wherein they subsist, to be nothing more than mere ideas in our minds and that consequently they exist nowhere else but only in our thoughts«. Now is not this clear idealism?
Idealism consists in maintaining that there exist no other but thinking beings and that all things besides, which we deem to perceive are merely the ideas of those thinking beings without any really outward object corresponding to them. Now on the contrary what I say is this: things subsisting extrinsically of us are manifested to us as objects of our senses; but nothing do we know of what they may be in themselves, our knowledge of them extending no further than to their appearances i. e. to the ideas, which they produce in us by affecting our senses. Accordingly I certainly allow bodies extrinsical of us to exist i. e. things which, though entirely unknown to us as to what they may be in themselves, yet come into our notice by means of the ideas, which we acquire from their influence on our sensitive faculty: to these things we apply the name of bodies, meaning by this term merely the appearance of an object unknown to us indeed, but not the less real. May this be called Idealism? Why, it is the very reverse of it.
That we may, without detracting from the real existence of outward things, assert that a good many of their qualities do not belong to those things in themselves, but only to their appearance and accordingly have no existence of their own and independent of our ideas of them, this is a truth that has been generally received an allowed long before Locke's time; but more especially since it. Of this kind are warmth, colour, taste &c. Now not the slightest argument can be alleged to shew it as inadmissible, that I, upon weighty reasons, reckon to the mere appearance besides the above mentioned also all the remaining qualities of bodies, those, I say, which are called primary ones, as extension, place and space in general with all its dependencies, such as impenetrability or materiality, form and the like. As little, therefore, as he may be styled an Idealist, who maintains the colours to be no qualities adhering to the objects themselves, but only to our organ of sight as modifications thereof; as little is my doctrine liable to be called idealistical, merely because I find, that still more, nay all the qualities constituting the perception of a body appertain merely to its appearance. For by this I do not, as real Idealism does, evert the existence of the appearing things, but only shew that we can never through the medium of senses know them so, as they are in themselves.
I should be glad to know, how my positions ought to be constituted in order to contain no Idealism. No doubt I ought to say that the idea of space is not only perfectly congruous to the relation in which our senses stand to the objects (for that is what I have said) but also that it is perfectly resembling those objects; a position to which I cannot attach any sense, no more than to this that the sensation of red in my eye bears a resemblance to the quality of the Cinnober that occasions it.