Translation Notes on Being and Time

last updated: 4/3/2011

Table of Contents

Introduction I

"State of Being:" Macquarrie and Robinson (M&R) use "state of Being" or "constitutive state of Being" for the German word Seinsverfassung. This is a bad translation, because the word just means "constitution of Being" or "make-up of Being," and has nothing to do with states of anything. Verfassung is the German word for "constitution" and is used to describe make-ups as well as political instruments.

"Historiological:" It's important to note that "historiological" is not "historiographical." MH is not talking about phenomena related to the theory of historical knowledge or understanding. Rather, historiological means "of or pertaining to the discipline of history." See my terminological notes on history.

Chapter 1

"Any Dasein:" M&R often insert the word "any" or "a" into sentences before "Dasein" to ease translation. So, on page 68 (3 lines below the "43" in the margin) they write "any Dasein whatsoever." The German is Dasein überhaupt, which means "Dasein at all" or "Dasein in general." I recommend the latter on p. 68. This is important, because Heidegger rarely uses "Dasein" in a way that forces us to understand it as a count noun. This bears materially on how we are to understand Dasein, whether as a person-analog or flu-analog or communal subject, or whatever.

"Encounter:" On p. 70 M&R write "entities we encounter within the world." They add a footnote which explains the basics of the translational issue, note #2. They say that the literal translation, "entities that encounter us within the world" is, in English, "unidiomatic and harsh." I don't know what they mean by "harsh," but this I can say: it is unidiomatic in German too! Heidegger used bizarre phraseology for a reason: he wants to cut out from under the tradition a little bit of grammar which tends to direct thought in a way he doesn't like. When we say "I encountered a cat," we understand this to mean that something happened inside of me, for example, I had a psychic experience directed toward a cat. But Heidegger wants us to think the other way: a cat presented itself to me, or was manifest for me. It is worth noting that our languages used to use the words Heidegger's way. That is why in older texts we still read such things as "the cat discovered itself to me ...;" in Shakespeare we see the phrase "me thinks," which means "it seems to me," not "I think."

Chapter 2

"Alongside:" M&R render Sein-bei as "Being-alongside." This translation is simply a disaster. Heidegger goes out of his way to say that by Sein-bei he does not mean "alongside" in the sense of "next to." Bei is the preposition that is used to mean "at the home of" (like the French chez), to mean "amongst us" (or "around here") as in "amongst us (or around here), one does not enter without knocking." It also means "on so and so's person;" for example, you say Haben Sie die Karte dabei? to mean "Do you have the map with you?"

Heidegger uses the preposition in two contexts. (1) He writes Dasein ist bei der Welt. Here it is pretty clear that he means something like this: "Dasein inhabits or dwells in the world." See p. 80 for the attempt to explain this meaning. (2) He later begins to write, and eventually pretty much restricts the use of bei to, Dasein ist bei Seiendem, which means something like: "Dasein dwells amidst entities." It is hard to translate the one preposition with one word that will do both jobs. (In any case, as should by now be obvious, "alongside" is totally wrong!) I suggest "amidst." It is just fine to say "Dasein is amidst entities," especially if one leans on the analogy with "Dasein is amongst others" (which does not have a purely physical meaning). We can get away with "Dasein is amidst the world," especially if we think of the similar, "Dasein is in the midst of the world." Advice: when you read "alongside" in M&R, read to yourself "amidst," and keep all this info in mind.

"Status of Being:" On p. 90 M&R translate Seinsstand as "status of Being." This gives the wrong impression, as if with the accomplishment of knowledge Dasein got some extra ontological kudos. Dasein does not take a step up the ladder of being with knowledge! It achieves a new attitude or stance towards Being, an attitude he will later characterize as theoretical. So, "Seinsstand" should be translated as "stance of being," or better "ontological stance." Stand in German can mean "status," "state," "stance," or "estate" (as in "the third estate").

Chapter 3

"Freed for ...:" M&R use a series of locutions in which "to free" or "freed" (freigeben/freigegeben) are followed by the preposition "for" (auf). So, on p. 116 (l. 1) they write, "When an entity within the world has already been proximally freed for its Being ... ." Again: "In letting entities be involved so that they are freed for a totality of involvements ..." (p. 118, 2d ¶). I think it would be better to write, "Dasein frees entities on the basis of/in terms of ... ." The point is that Dasein frees entities auf their being or auf the totality of involvements by making sense of them in terms of their being (i.e., as ready-to-hand) or in terms of the totality of involvements (i.e., as defined in terms of involvement roles).

"Letting entities be encountered for ...:" The retranslation of "free for" as "free in terms of" would mesh well with a similar shift in the translation of "letting entities be encountered for ... ." Heidegger writes, in M&R's translation, "The wherein of an act of understanding which assigns or refers itself, is that for which one lets entities be encountered in the kind of Being that belongs to involvements; and this wherein is the phenomenon of the world" (p. 119). Does Dasein let entities encounter for the world? I don't have any idea what that would mean! Clearly, Dasein lets entities encounter (itself, Dasein) in terms of the world, that is, in terms of the roles and tasks that make up the structure of the world. The auf in both "free auf" and "let entities encounter auf" picks out the way in which entities show themselves as embedded in context, as essentially involved in the world.

"Letting-something-be-involved:" the "something" that M&R always put in this phrase (e.g., p. 117) is wholly gratuitous. In fact, it obscures the meaning of the term, because "letting-be-involved" (Bewendenlassen), as it should be translated, has an ontic and an ontological variety. Ontic letting-be-involved is the act of making sense of this entity in terms of this task or equipmental role. Ontological letting-be-involved is the act of making sense of an entire nexus of equipmental roles so that entities can be discovered in terms of that whole nexus. Ontological letting-be-involved is always prior to ontic letting-be-involved, because one must already be able to make sense of the context in order to make sense of some particular entity in terms of some particular element of the context.

"Primordial:" a better translation of this word (ursprünglich) would be "originary." The meaning of the word is not primordial in the sense of historically prior, though it can take on that meaning in some instances. The primary meaning of the term is originary in the sense of being the source, the condition that makes possible. Our familiarity with the world, for example, is originary with respect to circumspection, because familiarity with the world makes it possible to circumspect. Originary F is the variety of F that makes the other varieties of F possible, and thus, the contrasting term for "originary" is "derivative." (It is not clear whether originary F should be seen as in some way actively producing or generating derivative F.)

Chapter 4

"Freed for ..." Once again we must deal with the expression "freed for." This time the problem is a little worse. In Chapter 4 M&R start translating freigegeben für as "freed for." Recall that in Chapter 3 they translate freigegeben auf as "freed for." I recommended to you to read that "freed for" as "freed on the basis of which/in terms of which." But now we have a second expression, which does mean "freed for" (i.e., unveiled for), translated as "freed for." Arg! So:

"for" (für): p. 156, ¶ 3, l. 4    and   p. 167, ¶ 3, l. 11

"in terms of" (auf) p. 157, ¶ 1, ll. 16 & 18

"The 'they':" Note first that in German there are no quotes around what is translated as "they." Second, "they" is not the word that Heidegger uses, and it carries all the wrong connotations. The German term das Man is a Heideggerian neologism. In German the third person, indefinite pronoun is man. (In English it is "one.") Heidegger has turned this pronoun into a regular noun; his neologism would be, literally translated, "the one." The German man carries the same imperative connotations that our "one" does: "one doesn't pick one's nose in public, Johnny!" In German one can also use man to report what is said about someone or something, what the word is: in German our "they say (or, it is reputed that) Don Johnson is dating Barbara Streisand" would be rendered with man, something like "one says that ... ." (Who says this? "The 'who' is not this one, not that one, not oneself, not some people, and not the sum of them all. The 'who' is the neuter, the one" (p. 164).) "They" is totally wrong, because of course, "they" does not include me, whereas "in terms of the one, and as the one, I am 'given' proximally to myself" (p. 167).


"State-of-mind:" This translation is totally wrong! The phenomenon that Heidegger picks out is neither a state, nor is it an anything of a mind. Befindlichkeit (the German word) is an abstract noun that is formed from an adjective (befindlich, which could be translated, too literally, as "foundly") that is formed from the verb (befinden) that occurs in the expression, Wie befinden Sie sich? This question means, "How are you doing?" or "How's it going?" Very literally, the question asks, "How do you find yourself?" In Befindlichkeit, it is disclosed "how one is and how one is faring." Moreover, Befindlichkeit discloses the way in which things are going for Dasein. It is very hard to know how to translate Befindlichkeit. Scholars have experimented with many variations: "affectedness," "affectivity," "sensibility," "so-found-ness," and "disposition" to name a few. I now prefer "disposedness."

"Mood:" "Mood" is a perfectly fine translation of Stimmung, and it even picks out ? ontically, as Heidegger would say ? (part of) the phenomenon that Heidegger is aiming for. However, since he wants to change our understanding of the ontology of what we call "moods," so that we stop interpreting them as inner states that color our view of things, and start interpreting them as ways of being attuned to what matters and how it matters, I suggest that we render Stimmung as "attunement." It can mean this (see M&R's note #3 on p. 172). In the second sentence of the second full paragraph of p. 174, Heidegger characterizes Stimmung as "attuned self-finding/affection" (gestimmtes Sichbefinden). (M&R mangle this sentence just a little: its last two clauses could be read much more simply as, "not as a perceptual finding itself before itself, but as an attuned self-finding.")


"Potentiality-for-Being:" once again M&R have missed the point, though this time in a somewhat more subtle way. The German in question is Seinkönnen. Sein means "being" or "to be," and können is the infinitive verb form of "can." Thus, literally it means "can-be." Since this is ugly and unintelligible, the next best alternative would be "ability-to-be." Now, there is a substantive issue at stake in the difference between "ability-to-be" and "potentiality-for-Being." We only say of someone that she has a potential(ity) for x if she is not (yet) x but could come to be or make herself be x. Saying that someone is able to be x, however, is compatible with either the claim that she is (already) x or that she is not. There is room to argue for either interpretation of Heidegger, though I lean very strongly in favor of "ability" on this score. Beyond these worries, there is a difference of ontological "vision" ? to use a word that Heidegger would hate ? between the two translations. "Potentiality" sounds like an Aristotelian-Hegelian notion of the acorn developing into the oak tree; the idea would be that Dasein relates to its for-the-sakes-of-which by tending to develop into them. "Ability," however, suggests that Dasein is capable of being its for-the-sakes-of-which, that is, can cope with them as social possibilities for anyone. The latter, I claim, is the correct interpretation of Being and Time. Not only does it fit with everything we've been reading so far, but it fits especially well with the way Heidegger spells out understanding in terms of competence and coping.

The "upon-which" of projection: in the definition of "meaning" on p. 193, Heidegger defines it as the "'upon-which' of a primary projection." Once again, the German here is Woraufhin, or "in terms of which." (This time M&R have reason to render it as "upon-which," because the grammar of "projection" leads one to say "project upon.") In that sentence the translators render another word, aus, as "in terms of which," and that complicates the matter a bit. However, since they are probably right to render aus that way, and since I think it is best to render Woraufhin that way, and since I don't think I can say anything to distinguish them, one could just translate them both by "in terms of which." If one wants to keep them straight, I suppose one could render aus as "out of." In this case, a literal translation of the sentence would be this: "Meaning is the in-terms-of-which, structured by fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-conception, which belongs to projection, out of which something is intelligible [or, understandable] as something." Note that the relative pronoun "which" in the final clause refers ambiguously to either "in-terms-of-which" or "projection." (The dem ("which") in aus dem her ("out of which") could be either neuter or masculine, and so we cannot decide its reference between Woraufhin and Entwurf, though since Entwurf is typographically proximal, it's likely.)

"Meaning:" note that the German word is Sinn, which is Husserl's all-important word translated as "sense." It is also Frege's word for "sense," though I don't think Heidegger much cared about that fact. (Bedeutung, which can also just mean "meaning" or "sense," and which was Husserl's "signification," is translated as "signification" in Being and Time. As with Husserl, this term applies to a different level of discussion, viz. that of linguistic meaning.)

On the seventh line below the "149" in the margin of p. 189, M&R translate es ist zum ... as "it is for such and such a purpose." Heidegger just writes, however, "it is for ... ." The difference is crucial, because the task is not a purpose or goal.

The passage from The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Heidegger's 1927 lecture series, (trans. by A. Hofstadter, Indiana Univ. Press, 1982), p. 276 that I rely on is literally translated thus:

[In German we say that] [s]omeone can vorstehen something [literally, stand in front of or ahead of it, that is, stand at its head, administer, manage, preside over it], i.e., he versteht sich darauf [understands in the sense of being skilled or expert at it, has the know-how of it]. The meaning of the term "understanding" as defined above is intended to go back to this usage in ordinary language.

Note these parallels:

German: Translation: Literal Transliteration: 
Auslegung interpretation laying out
Auseinanderlegen  taking apart laying apart
Überlegung deliberation laying over
Auslegung interpretation laying out
Ausdrücklich explicit  pressed out
Ausgesprochen expressed spoken out
Ausbilden develop build out
Sicht sight sight
Umsicht circumspection around-sight
Rücksicht considerateness back-sight
Vorsicht fore-sight fore-sight
Übersicht survey over-sight


Communication:" the translation here is fine: the word Mitteilung means "communication." And moreover, Heidegger is using it to mean that. But it is worth noting the construction of the word Mit-teilung. This construction is important in the fourth sentence of the first full paragraph on p. 197. That sentence reads, "Letting someone else see with us shares with the Other that entity which has been pointed out in its definite character." The German here is, "Das Mitsehenlassen teilt das in seiner Bestimmtheit aufgezeigte Seiende mit dem Anderen." This sentence could be rendered very literally thus: "Letting-see-with shares with the Other the entity that has been pointed out in its determinateness." Heidegger relies on the somewhat more literal meaning of Mitteilung: sharing with. He connects it up with the word Mitsehen, or seeing-with. All of this should resonate with the key word Mitsein, being-with. So, if pointing-out is a letting-be-seen (apophansis), then assertion, as a sort of communication or sharing-with, is a letting-be-seen-with.

"Articulation" and "articulation:" the translators distinguish between "Articulation" (artikulieren) and "articulation" (gliedern). It is true that the two words have different nuances: artikulieren is associated with the sense of "articulate" in which we describe someone as "(in)articulate," or when we ask someone to "articulate" his or her feelings or thoughts; gliedern is associated with the sense in which a skeleton is articulated, that is, has parts that are systematically connected with one another. Now of course, the two senses are closely allied: an articulate person is one who can make distinctions (and express them in language), who can differentiate between, e.g., remorse and regret, and knows how to convey even far more subtle distinctions linguistically. Something that is articulated, in the gliedern sense, like the skeleton or a philosophical system, is something that has distinguished parts that hang together. I'm not sure that Heidegger wants to distinguish the two senses. I have tried for years to read B&T with this distinction, but I cannot ultimately make it work. This is not to say that there is no difference between linguistically expressed differentiations and others, and I don't think that Heidegger wants to deny this. The point is, however, that we should view language as a form of communicative, differentiatory activity and the world as synthetically differentiated in a public way. The There is discursive, as we'll see.

"Discourse:" the previous remarks harmonize well with Haugeland's suggestion that we render Rede (or "discourse") as "telling," for this word has both senses: to tell as in to distinguish ("I can't tell them apart;" a "bank-teller"), and to tell as in to relate ("tell me about it"). (Note that we'll see that the crucial dimension of relating something is that we make it known or manifest.) Also, if we do render Rede as "telling," then we can translate "what is said-in-the-talk" more parsimoniously and accurately as "what is told." ("What is talked about" would then be "what is told about.") Though "discourse" is difficult to beat, bear Haugeland's suggestion in mind.

"Express:" it is perhaps important in §34 to note that the German for "express" is aussprechen, or "speak out." So, when Heidegger writes, on p. 204, that intelligibility "expresses itself as discourse," he is saying that it "speaks itself out as discourse."

Here is the second paragraph in §34. M&R's translation is not wrong. I simply want a very literal translation of it available to you, for after all, it is the crucial paragraph for figuring out what discourse is.

Telling is equi-originary with affectivity and understanding. Intelligibility is also always articulate [gegliedert] before there is any appropriative interpretation. Telling is the Articulation of intelligibility. Thus it already grounds interpretation and assertion. The Articulable in interpretation, and thus even more originarily in telling, is what we have called meaning. That which is articulated as such in telling Articulation, we call the totality of significations. This totality can be resolved into significations. Significations, as what is Articulated of the Articulable, are always meaningful. If telling, the Articulation of the intelligibility of the There, is an originary existentiale of disclosedness, and if this disclosedness is primarily Constituted by being-in-the-world, then telling must also essentially have a specifically worldly sort of being. The affective intelligibility of being-in-the-world speaks itself out as telling. The totality of significations comes to word. To significations words accrue. But word-Things are not outfitted with significations. (SuZ, 161)

Note that I have here made the following translational adaptations:

"telling" for "discourse"

"affectivity" for "state-of-mind," and "affective" for "which has a state-of-mind" (and similar constructions)

"originary" for "primordial"


"compared itself:" on p. 236 (1st full ¶, l. 5) M&R translate: "In each case Dasein has already compared itself, in its Being, with a possibility of itself." The German for "compared itself" is zusammengestellt mit. This is more literally and more correctly translated as "put itself together with." Heidegger is not saying that I compare myself with some social role, for after all, in projection I constitute myself as that role. How could I compare myself with something that I am? He is saying that I have (figuratively) put myself together with that possibility, that is, made myself it. (Note: this will be somewhat revised when we discuss death, but still comparison will never be in question.)

"ruled out:" on p. 237 (last two words of 1st full ¶) M&R translate: "From this signification [of "care"] every tendency of Being which one might have in mind ontically, such as worry [Besorgnis] or carefreeness [Sorglosigkeit], is ruled out." The German for "ruled out" is Ausgeschlossen. I think it would be just a little better to translate it as "excluded." It is not that care, as the being of Dasein, rules out worrying or being carefree, but that the signification of the word "care" excludes those ontic significations; Heidegger is prescinding from them to something more abstract or structural, which makes the phenomena of worry and carefreeness possible.


"performance:" on p. 247 (last ¶, l. 2) M&R translate "... fact that both change and performance belong, with equal primordiality ... ." This is just a mistake. The German for "performance" is Beharrung, which means endurance. And of course, this is what Kant was talking about in the Refutation of Idealism.

"knowing:" Which is a founded mode of being-in-the-world, knowing or cognizing, or both? Clearly Heidegger must believe both are, but this is obscured by the translation of Erkennen by "knowing." Erkennen can mean that, but can also mean "cognizing." Kant uses Erkennen to mean "cognizing:" when he sets out to prove that Erkenntnis presupposes the categories, he must mean "cognition" rather than "knowledge," for otherwise his proof would beg the question against a skeptic who does not grant the supposition that we have knowledge. For Kant, Erkenntnis is representation that claims to have an object. Now, in §12 of B&T Heidegger argues that Erkennen is founded in being-in-the-world, and here ? because the point of the section is exemplificatory ? it doesn't matter much how we translate it. But when he turns around in §43a to derail skeptical inquiries, indeed to derail the entire question of the existence of the external world, he must mean "cognizing" by Erkennen, for otherwise, as with Kant, he would be begging the question from the get-go. Moral: read "knowing" as "cognizing." (Unfortunately, German has a perfectly ordinary word for "to know," viz. wissen, which M&R also render as "knowing!")


Only nit-picking this week:

p. 258, 1st l. above "216:" The translators insert mention-quotes into the sentence, "The number 6 agrees with 16-10." It is true that Heidegger often does not use mention-quotes where we today would. However, it is just wrong to insert them here: neither the numerals nor the sign-designs "6" and "16-10" agree with one another, especially given that in the next sentence Heidegger clarifies the sort of agreement intended as equality. The numbers equal one another.

p. 258, 1st l. below "216:" The translation reads: "Equality is one way of agreeing. Its structure is such that something like a 'with-regard-to' belongs to it." The "its" that begins the second sentence is entirely ambiguous in the English between "equality" and "agreeing," with the likelihood falling (to my ear) with "equality." In German it is most likely that it refers rather to the "agreeing." German: "Gleichheit ist eine Weise der Übereinstimmung. Zu dieser gehört strukturmäßig so etwas wie ein 'Hinblick auf'." Dieser usually refers to the immediate antecedent; it functions much like our "the latter."

p. 259, 1st full ¶, ll. 4-5: The translation reads: "According to the general opinion, what is true is knowledge." Though it is perhaps a little hard to tell (because the English is so tortured), this sentence is backwards. "If it's true, it's knowledge," is clearly false, whereas "if it's knowledge, it's true," may very well be definitional. In any case, Heidegger's German sentence is the right one, viz., "According to the general opinion, knowledge is true" ["Wahr ist nach der allgemeinen Meinung die Erkenntnis"]. ("What is true" would be das Wahre or was wahr ist.)

pp. 260-1: The translation uses the phrase "has in mind." This is a colloquial rendition of gemeinte, which here probably means "intended." So, retranslate this phrase as "intended."


"source:" on p. 278 the translators write, "By casting light on the source of the 'time' 'in which' entities within-the-world are encountered ... ." The word "source" here is Ursprung. It can mean "source," but is better translated as "origin." It is the substantive from which the adjective "primoridal"/"originary" (ursprünglich) is formed.

Division Two, Chapter 1

"Being-come-to-an-end:" on p. 282 the translators use this term to translate Zuendegekommensein. The German does have the word Sein as a part, and this motivates the use of "Being" in the translation. However, in this case the Sein is a helping verb in constructing the perfect tense. The phrase is more accurately and perspicuously rendered as "having-come-to-an-end."

"still-a-Dasein:" (p. 283) More simply rendered as "still-Dasein." In particular the German involves no indefinite article.

"not to be outstripped:" (introduced, p. 294) the translation is fine, but I prefer "unsurpassable." "Not to be outstripped" almost sounds quasi-imperative, but Heidegger's point is that one cannot outstrip or surpass one's death.

"anticipation:" (introduced p. 306) There really is no good way to translate the German term, Vorlaufen in ... . Literally it means "running ahead into ... ." The derivative adjective vorläufig means "privisional, preliminary." I suggest reading it as "running ahead into," but be careful not to give this the implication that the translators note (p. 306, n. 3) as improbable, viz., running "headlong" into something.

"inertia:" on p. 229 the translators write: "It turns away from itself in accordance with its ownmost inertia [Zug] of falling." I think this would be better rendered thus: "It turns away from itself in accordance with its ownmost tendency to fall." (emphasis altered throughout)

Division Two, Chapter 2

On p. 313 M&R translate the final sentence of the second full paragraph in what seems to me to be an entirely misleading way. It should read: "The following analysis puts conscience into the thematic fore-having of a purely existential investigation with a fundamental ontological aim." I don't know why M&R swap the term "theoretical" for "thematic."

On p. 315, 10 ll. up from the bottom, M&R render the phrase woran es mit ihm selbst ist as "what it is istelf capable of," while I think it would be clearer to write "what it itself is about."

On p. 321, ll. 6-7 of the 1st full paragraph, M&R render the quoted phrase thus: "'that it is, and that it has to be something with a potentiality-for-Being as the entity which it is'." This is an acceptable stab at an awfully convoluted phrase (see ftn. # 2 on p. 321). My stab: "'that it is, and has, ability-to-be-ish-ly, to be as the entity that it is'." N.B.: the use of "has to be" is, as noted earlier in class, tricky: it does not mean "must be," but rather something like "has itself to be" (on analogy with: "He has an apple to eat.").

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