I'm reading Schopenhauer's essay 'Über die Weiber', in which the following appears:

Mit den Mädchen hat es die Natur auf Das, was man, im dramaturgischen Sinne, einen Knalleffekt nennt, abgesehen, indem sie dieselben, auf wenige Jahre, mit überreichlicher Schönheit, Reiz und Fülle ausstattet, auf Kosten ihrer ganzen übrigen Lebenszeit, damit sie nämlich, während jener Jahre, der Phantasie eines Mannes sich in dem Maße bemächtigen könnten, daß er hingerissen wird, die Sorge für sie auf Zeit Lebens, in irgend einer Form, ehrlich zu übernehmen;

I translated it - as literally as possible - as follows:

With the girls nature foresaw what one, in a dramatic sense, calls a "striking effect", in which it[nature] furnishes the aforementioned, during their younger years, with overabundant beauty, charm and fullness, at the cost of the rest of their entire life, so that they can seize the phantasy of a man during those years, to such an extent as to induce him, in some way, into honestly taking [the responsibility to care for] them upon himself, for a lifetime;

Then comes the part I'm not understanding very well, and having problem to translate, which is this entire sentence:

zu welchem Schritte ihn zu vermögen, die bloße vernünftige Überlegung keine hinlänglich sichere Bürgschaft zu geben schien.

I can't seem to get or am doubtful about the entire sentence, especially on:

  1. zu welchem Schritte ihn zu vermögen - I only understood it as "to such a point as for him to be able to", but, does it make sense this way?

Especially, here, the reason I called for in the question's title:

  1. zu geben schien, I'm clueless about what this means, as 'schien' seems to be the past tense of 'scheinen', rendering a meaningless sentence if translated literally.

As a conclusion, I'm sorry for my literal translation, but that's the best I can do with my skills at the moment, and thanks for the patience.

  • Very nicely translated, but it's the girls.
    – Janka
    Aug 24, 2017 at 18:07
  • @Janka, Oh, of course, I'm going to edit it. In fact I didn't mind the dative plural mark in the article (mit den). Thanks Aug 24, 2017 at 18:17
  • I am not sure if zu geben schien is really to be interpreted as Präteritum here. I find it more convincing to read it as Konjunktiv (fully: schiene), as the situation described is hypothetical - a typical situation to use Konjunktiv in the clause. See the famous Was hülfe es dem Menschen, wenn er die ganze Welt gewönne und nähme doch Schaden an seiner Seele. - Or in English: ... a step which to take mere reason would not be sufficient. Aug 25, 2017 at 12:06

1 Answer 1


You seem to be confused by a kind of dated word order:

zu welchem Schritte ihn zu vermögen, die bloße vernünftige Überlegung keine hinlänglich sichere Bürgschaft zu geben schien.

Make that a tad simpler (and a tad more "modern German"):

Zu diesem Schritt schien ihm die Überlegung keinen sicheren Grund zu geben

Translates to:

Apparently, just simple consideration didn't give him enough secure reason for this step

So "schien zu geben" translates to "appeared to give" - or, simpler, "apparently gave".

  • Yes, now that you explained it not only I see the word order was one very confusing to me, but also and more specifically I see that I forgot that the word 'scheinen' also means 'appears to'. I was actually thinking of it as 'to shine' at the moment I was reading it. Anyhow, this got me going forward again, thank you. Aug 24, 2017 at 18:16

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