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Concerning the question »Is it more common to write longer sentences in german than in english?«, I wonder why some well-known English philosophers bothered to learn German.

A lot of important philosophy was written in German in the last centuries (Kant, Hegel). There are translations. But do these philosophers prefer to read it in original language? And why? Are there advantages in writing complex differentiated thoughts in German? Or are there only bad translations available for these old texts (I doubt this as they are ground-setting for many philosophical disciplines)?

A big advantage for me is the convention to capitalise the first letter of every noun as it makes it easier to read a very sophisticated philosophical text. Also heavy subordinate clauses arguably help expressing, how a single thought is related to another one in a hierarchy of thoughts/proposals. German language just seems to be very exact from this point of view and to have more options expressing complex thoughts in an easy manner.

Any scientific links on this topic would be highly appreciated. As you might know, the right programming language can save a lot of time formulating a distinct problem as a computable algorithm. Is the above an analogy from spoken languages?

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closed as not a real question by RegDwight Jul 26 '11 at 21:55

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

My chinese teacher studied philosophy in Germany. She says, that at least the Chinese translations of philosophical books (in her case of Nietzsche) are often translated very poor, so that it is sometimes impossible to understand the original meaning from the translation. – FUZxxl Jul 15 '11 at 14:16
Can you reduce Haskell to C without loosing a lot of semantical informations (like the types)? IMHO it is not always possible to express the exact same meaning in another language, although you can get very close. – FUZxxl Jul 15 '11 at 14:18
What do you mean by "translated hardly". We don't use the word "hardly" this way in English where it would normally come before a verb and means "barely" which doesn't seem to fit your question. Do you mean "translated literally" perhaps? – hippietrail Jul 16 '11 at 8:42
@hippie look at FUZxxl comment - keeping the original meaning, there are many neologisms made in german philosophy, long sentences with subordinate clauses. I heard to, there are no good translations of e.g. Hegel's Phänomenologie des Geistes. So why there are no good rough translations after centuries? Translating literally is not the point for a philosophical text, you have to keep the meaning. – Hauser Jul 16 '11 at 9:50
@hippietrail I think "translated hardly" in the title was intended to mean "translated only with difficulty", i.e., it's hard to translate these texts. I've seen this misuse of "hardly" in other contexts, and it's a rather natural one, thinking that "hardly" is the adverb form of "hard". – Andreas Blass Jul 27 '14 at 23:44
up vote 5 down vote accepted

As I cannot give a definitive answer, but this is my take:

Philosophers in Germany need to get a degree in Latin (and formerly in Greek as well) to be able to read the Roman and Greek philosophers in the original, because with translations you loose some subtleties that are important for understanding the text in the way the original author intended it.

E.g take the German word "Wissenschaft". "Science" would be in most cases an accepted translation, but in a text about epistimology, this translation may not suffice, for another example see Exact difference between Erfahrung and Erlebnis?

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Indeed, this is the reason as I've heard it from academic philosophers. Any inherent superiority of German for philosophy (as suggested in the question) is all very well, but it's not the primary concern of the English philosopher, especially if they aren't planning to write in German. Reading the original is a primary concern, since studying Kant or Hegel's own words is a pretty important source of understanding (albeit not the only source). – Steve Jessop Jul 14 '14 at 2:38

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