“Good translating is very hard work”
Karl Popper, translation theorist in spite of himself
Upon immigrating to New Zealand in 1937, Austrian-born philosopher of science Karl Raimund Popper lived and worked in the English-speaking world, where he published his major works in English. Life events forced him to engage in various forms of self-translation around the same time that he began earnestly working on translating Presocratic philosophical fragments into English. While he rejected language wholesale as an object of philosophical reflection, translation became an exception, a privileged occasion for philosophical reflection on language. This article reads Popper’s thoughts on translation in the context of previously unpublished correspondence between Popper and potential translators of Conjectures and Refutations (1963, third edition 1968) from English to German. The article thereby mediates the tension between Popper’s outspokenly perfectionistic demands on potential translators and his general thesis that scientific or philosophical language need only be as precise as the problem at hand requires.
- 2.Karl Popper’s self-translations
- 3.Attempted and rejected translations of Conjectures and Refutations
- 5.Heraclitus variations
- 6.Interpreting Parmenides through translation