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translation puzzle on Aristotle's De Coloribus

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translation puzzle on Aristotle's De Coloribus

Postby Cédric » Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:01 pm

Hi all,

I've been working for two years on Aristotle's [face=spionic]Peri\ Xrwma/twn[/face] and i still have one huge translation problem (at least it's huge for me for it has been puzzling me so far :? ).
Before all just a bit of introduction to this treatise. No-one knows who actually "wrote" it, we just know it's been composed by one of Aristotle's followers probably under Theophrastus or Strato, but this is not the problem here... The thing is that, as for most of peripatetitian treatises it's just composed of bits of thoughts put together... so we get a lot of fun in reading them :lol:
I translated this short text (10 pages) into French, using anterior Latin and English translation which get very far from the text when difficulties appear...
Enough...
My problem lies within some little particles of which i can't understant the combination and therefore the meaning (in red in the text besides).
The group appears in 191b11 (this is the reference to Bekker's edition used in most of moderns translations/edition) ; it's the first chapter of the treatise and the author gives details on the "simple colors" ([face=SPIonic]a)pla= tw=n xrwma/twn[/face], white and yellow and also explain why black can't be considered as a color before getting to the nature of light ([face=spionic]fw=j[/face])). Here are the problematic sentences :

[face=spionic] e)piskepte/on de\ tou=to/. e)/nia ga\r ou)k o)/nta pu=r ou)de\ puro\j ei)/dh th\n fu/sin fw=j poiei=n fai/netai/. ei) mh\ a)/ra to\ me\n tou= puro\j xrw=ma fw=j e)sti/n, ou) me/ntoi kai\ to\ fw=j puro\j e)sti xrw=ma mo/nou, a)ll' e)nde/xetai mh\ mo/nw| me\n u(pa/rxein tw=| puri\ th\n xro/an tau/thn, ei=)nai me/ntoi xrw=ma to\ fw=j au)tou=[/face].

Here is Forster and Loverday's translation (which is actually not helpfull but i just give it for the general understanding of the text which is quite obscure and repetitive :?): "But there is a point to be considered, that some things, thought they are not in their nature fire nor any species of fire, yet seem to produce light. So we cannot say that the colour of fire is identical with light, and yet light is the colour of other things besides fire, but we can say this colour is to be found in other things besides fire, and yet light is the colour of fire".
Here is now my translation of the same text in French (i'll try to translate it into English besides) : "Il faut considérer ceci : quelques corps, en effet, qui ne sont pas, par nature, du feu ni n'ont l'apparence du feu, semblent produire de la lumière. Si la couleur du feu n'est pas la lumière, et si la lumière n'est pas couleur du feu seul, de fait il est possible que cette couleur n'appartienne pas au seul feu et que la lumière soit sa couleur". (which might be translated as "yet this is to be considered : some bodies, indeed, which are not, by nature, fire nor have the appearance of fire, seem to produce light. If the colour of fire is not light, and if light is not the colour of fire only, therefore it is possible that this colour does not belong to the fire only and that light is its colour" - does it make it any clearer?)

I would like to keep in my translation most of the Greek words and not sacrifice them like i already did it with [face=spionic]a)/ra[/face] or [face=spionic]me/ntoi[/face] not to speak of Forster and Loveday who stay very far from the original Greek text.

Well, i guess you now understand where the problem lies : i don't know how to combine the groups of particles for the first group [face=SPIonic]ei) mh\ a)/ra[/face] appears no-where else (i've looked in Denniston and found nothing, nor in any of the Greek grammar i could look at would it be French, German or English) i tryed TLG in vain, in a word this group is an hapax! and i can't figure out how to deal with it and its combination with [face=spionic]ou) me/ntoi kai\[/face] which i don't know it it's correlative (the way i translated it) or anything else.

Thanks for you help. (I hope the greek fonts will work???)
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Postby chad » Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:58 pm

Hi Cédric, at first glance I read it completely differently:

The first sentence says that some things other than fire appear to make light.

Then the following texts says (in my opinion):

So if perhaps then ([face=SPIonic]mh\[/face] used here in a suggestion as "perhaps" rather than as a negative: see Sidgwick, Intro to Greek Prose Comp, page 68, section 123(3)) the colour of fire is light, but not also however ([face=SPIonic]ou) me/ntoi kai\[/face]) (i.e. but this doesn't also mean) that light is the colour of fire only, but rather ([face=SPIonic]a)ll'[/face]) (other things have the colour of light &c &c).

It's saying that just because the colour of fire is light, the colour of light is not fire: they aren't convertible because the colour of light isn't unique to fire.

i.e. i think that ei) mh\ a)/ra means here something like alors il se pourrait bien que, it's not a negative protasis of a conditional sentence. i hope that makes sense :)
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Re: translation puzzle on Aristotle's De Coloribus

Postby Skylax » Wed Nov 17, 2004 10:00 pm

Cédric wrote:

[face=spionic] ...ei) mh\ a)/ra to\ me\n tou= puro\j xrw=ma fw=j e)sti/n, ou) me/ntoi kai\ to\ fw=j puro\j e)sti xrw=ma mo/nou,[/face].

(which might be translated as "... If the colour of fire is not light, and if light is not the colour of fire only, "


In my opinion, the if-clause ends with [face=spionic]e)sti/n[/face], the negation [face=spionic]ou)[/face] indicating that the apodosis begins. [face=spionic]a)/ra[/face] could mean "thus", referring to the previous statement : "Si donc la couleur du feu n'est pas la lumière, la lumière non plus (kai/) n'est certes (me/ntoi) pas la couleur du seul feu, mais il est possible que ..."

It seems to me that the protasis and the apodosis of the conditional sentence are also correlated by means of me/n.... me/ntoi.
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Postby chad » Thu Nov 18, 2004 5:43 am

Hi Cédric and Skylax, I don't understand the argument, and how the sentences connect, if the first part of the 3rd sentence means "Si donc la couleur du feu n'est pas la lumière". I can't figure out what the paragraph would be trying to say...
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Postby Skylax » Thu Nov 18, 2004 7:53 pm

Hi, chad !

I think Aristotle is drawing a succession of logical conclusions from an initial observed fact.
The fact : some things besides fire emit light (somehow light is a "color" in Aristotle's mind).
1st conclusion : fire's own ("reserved") color is not light
2nd conclusion : this color is not for fire alone
general conclusion : this color is for fire and other things.

Yes, this "tiny step by tiny step" reasoning could look a bit simple, but it may be directed against the idea that every light originates from a fire :?

XAIPE
Last edited by Skylax on Thu Nov 18, 2004 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Cédric » Thu Nov 18, 2004 8:25 pm

Hi Chad & Skylax, and all (of course) !
First of all thanks for your help on this lovely text :lol: . It's with texts like this that i think that we "classics folks" are really weirdoes, aren't we? :lol:
Anyway, i've been reading and re-reading your posts for the last three hours and at least, i reached some conclusions which i state here (before going further and try to understand what the d... philosopher meant :evil: ).
So, two categories : the things i'm now pretty sure of (actually there's only one :? ) and two more problems your posts rose. Let's start with the at-the-time-certainty :
* [face=spionic]mh/[/face] cannot be a negation. First because i think that if it would, in such a context it would have been [face=spionic]ou)k[/face] because of [face=spionic]e)sti/[/face]. I assume that to have a negative [face=spionic]mh/[/face], we'd have excpected something like [face=spionic]h)=|[/face] or [face=spionic]ei)/h[/face], wouldn't we? Then "because of" what can be found in Sigdwick (thanks Chad) which i also found in J. Bertrand's "Nouvelle Grammaire Grecque", p.199, §191 where she quotes the combination [face=spionic]a)/ra mh/... ;[/face], translating it by "peut-on croire que... ?" [who can believe that... ?] (although this translation doesn't fit as such in [face=spionic]P.X.[/face]. Then, grammaticaly i agree with Chad telling that [face=spionic]mh/[/face] is not negative, but by doing so the sentence becomes absolutely meaningless (which actually is not very surprising in [face=spionic]P.X.[/face]) because the translation would be
"Donc, si l'on peut penser que la couleur du feu n'est pas la lumière, et cependant la lumière n'est pas la couleur du feu seul, il est toutefois ([face=spionic]a)ll'[/face]) possible que cette couleur n'appartienne pas au seul feu [et] cependant que la lumière soit sa couleur" (= so if one can think that the colour of fire is not light, and yet light is not the colour of fire alone, it is still possible that this colour does not belong to the fire alone [and] yet that light is its colour).
From this translation my two "new" problems :
1) Least of both : i can't understand the purpose of the two [face=spionic]me/n[/face] since they remain alone, unless they announce the two [face=spionic]me/ntoi[/face] (?) But if this second solution is to be considered, then it would mean that the protasis doesn't end after [face=spionic]e)sti/n[/face] but after [face=spionic]mo/nou[/face] (considering [face=spionic]kai/[/face] as copulative and not slightly adversative joined to [face=spionic]me/ntoi[/face]) and there i will quote the Monthy Pythons : AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGHHHH!!!! (the purists will forgive me :wink:)
2) The way we construct [face=spionic]mh/[/face], and if i consider, along with you, Skylax, that the protasis ends up with [face=spionic]e)sti/v[/face], the rest of the sentence can't be considered as an apodosis (I doubt one could begin with an adversative particle like [face=spionic]a)lla/[/face] which is used to link two ideas together although in a negative way), neither can i consider the bit of the sentence starting with [face=spionic]ou) me/ntoi ktl.[/face] untill the end as anything else but a concessive clause. Hence, this sentence has one protasis but no apodosis :cry: . En soi, it doesn't really bother me for the explanation is quite clear, and if we consider this work as just notes put aside as a guidelline in a course or notes taken during a class, this kind of anacolutha is not very surprising, but i would have prefered something more "academic" (i should then have chosen Plato i guess :?)

Let me know what you think of all this or if you have other so helpful hints as those you already gave me. Thanks again (I may later on submit another problem on this very treatise but it will be a vocabulary puzzle this time...)

C.
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Re: translation puzzle on Aristotle's De Coloribus

Postby Democritus » Thu Nov 18, 2004 8:54 pm

Skylax wrote:
Cédric wrote:

[face=spionic] ...ei) mh\ a)/ra to\ me\n tou= puro\j xrw=ma fw=j e)sti/n, ou) me/ntoi kai\ to\ fw=j puro\j e)sti xrw=ma mo/nou,[/face].

(which might be translated as "... If the colour of fire is not light, and if light is not the colour of fire only, "


In my opinion, the if-clause ends with [face=spionic]e)sti/n[/face], the negation [face=spionic]ou)[/face] indicating that the apodosis begins.


What do you think about the rest of the sentence? Do you think that the following is part of the apodosis (maybe a three-headed apodosis), or is that instead a whole new if-then pair?

[face=spionic]a)ll' e)nde/xetai mh\ mo/nw| me\n u(pa/rxein tw=| puri\ th\n xro/an tau/thn, ei=)nai me/ntoi xrw=ma to\ fw=j au)tou=.[/face]


I'm wondering about that word [face=spionic]mh\[/face]. Why [face=spionic]mh\[/face] and not [face=spionic]ou)[/face]? Is there perhaps a second, elliptical [face=spionic]ei)[/face] hiding in there?

I just noticed, there are four instances of [face=spionic]me\n[/face] in this quote. :shock: Could this be some kind of idiom? ([face=spionic] ... ei) mh\ ... me\n..., ... me/ntoi ...[/face]). It's repeated twice, except for [face=spionic]ei)[/face].
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Re: translation puzzle on Aristotle's De Coloribus

Postby Cédric » Thu Nov 18, 2004 9:30 pm

Why [face=spionic]mh\[/face] and not [face=spionic]ou)[/face]?


Actually, [face=spionic]mh/[/face] is regular in this kind of infinitive clause introduced by a verb of possibility. [face=spionic]ou)k[/face] is used with werbs of opinion and declaration. E.g. [face=spionic]nomi/zw - le/gw ou)k tou=ton kalo\ ei)=nai[/face] (I think/say that this is not nice)but we'll find [face=spionic]e)nde/xetai tou=to mh\ kalo\ ei)=nai[/face] (it is possible that this is not nice).

there are four instances of [face=spionic]me\n[/face] in this quote


Indeed, and it seems that each [face=spionic]me/n[/face] is followed by a [face=spionic]me/ntoi[/face] which makes the construction of the sentence even more difficult because if so, it gets very tricky to tell between protasis and apodosis ; because basically it would make 2 apodosis : [face=spionic]ei) mh\ ... fw=j e)sti/v[/face] and [face=spionic]a)ll'... tau/thn[/face] and therefore 2 protasis [face=spionic]ou) me/ntoi... mo/nou[/face] and [face=spionic]ei)=nai... au)tou=[/face] which doesn't seem grammatically very correct nor justifiable.
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Postby chad » Fri Nov 19, 2004 12:10 am

Hi Cédric and Skylax, I'm still not sure about this. I think Skylax is much more likely to be right here since he's got real experience with Greek whereas I don't yet. I just don't think though that this argument follows:

I think Aristotle is drawing a succession of logical conclusions from an initial observed fact.
The fact : some things besides fire emit light (somehow light is a "color" in Aristotle's mind).
1st conclusion : fire's own ("reserved") color is not light
2nd conclusion : this color is not for fire alone
general conclusion : this color is for fire and other things.


The 1st conclusion doesn't agree with the other statements, which assume or assert that fire (along with other things) does have the colour light.

The negatives though in the protasis and apodosis do make this look like the proper reading though: in section 2286 of Smyth, it says...

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/pt ... d%3D%23594

What I was just thinking though is that this whole sentence sounds like an aside-thought feel to it: a possibility being entertained by the author without being answered... I checked, and [face=SPIonic]ei) mh\ a)/ra [/face]does in fact appear in Plato twice, as well as in other texts:

Republic 396d
Theatetus 183b

where it means "Unless/except perhaps...".

so maybe the whole paragraph runs:

Il faut considérer ceci : quelques corps, en effet, qui ne sont pas, par nature, du feu ni n'ont l'apparence du feu, semblent produire de la lumière... Unless perhaps the colour of fire is light, and yet (me/ntoi) light is not also (kai\) the colour of fire alone but (a)ll') it's possible for this colour (a) to belong not only to fire and yet (me/ntoi) (b) to be the colour of it [i.e. fire]...
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