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Transliterating Heidegger

As a result of lurking in a mailing list’s conversation about whether and how to translate Heidegger’s use of the ancient Greek term φυσις, I did some poking around at Google.

φυσις does not translate easily, which is why Heidegger scholars like to use the original Greek. (Meanwhile, I can’t even find an html character for the upsilon with a diacritical, and the raw Greek character failed in the preview of this post in Chrome.) It’s usually translated as “nature,” but that’s the result of a 2,500-year-old-game of “Telephone.” For Heidegger, it has something to do with what shows itself as having its own way of becoming or emerging. Richard Polt aand Gregory Fried in A Companion to Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics take a stab at it by referring to it as the “emerging-abiding sway.” Anyway, that’s not the point of this post.

Here are the results. Have fun making sense of them. They are wonky in ways that indicate that I don’t know how to do Google queries.

Search logic

Actual search terms

Results

1

φυσις

φυσις

282,000

2

φυσις AND heidegger

“φυσις” “heidegger”

13,800

3

phusis AND heidegger

“phusis” “heidegger”

14,100

4

physis AND heidegger

“heidegger” “physis”

70,200

5

φυσις AND heidegger AND phusis

“φυσις” “heidegger” “phusis”

886

6

φυσις AND heidegger AND physis

“φυσις” “heidegger” “physis”

2,890

7

φυσις AND heidegger BUT NOT phusis

“φυσις” “heidegger” -“phusis”

10,900

8

φυσις AND heidegger BUT NOT physis

“φυσις” “heidegger” -“physis”

8,900

9

heidegger AND phusis BUT NOT φυσις

“heidegger” “phusis” -“φυσις”

28,700

10

heidegger AND physis BUT NOT φυσις

-“φυσις” “heidegger” “physis”

76,300

11

φυσις AND heidegger AND phusis AND physis

“φυσις” “heidegger” “physis” “phusis”

183

Semi-interesting factoids based upon faulty research and poor quantitative reasoning skils:

  • Hardly anyone who uses the Greek bothers to point out that there are two ways to transliterate it.

  • A fifth of all mentions of the Greek term also mention Heidegger.

  • If a work mentions Heidegger and the Greek term, it’s three times more likely to transliterate it as physis.

Fun minigame: How many of those did I mess up?



Google’s search syntax documentation is not great, and the results sometimes seem wonky. Here’s some documentation:

2 Responses to “Transliterating Heidegger”

  1. What’s wrong with fysis, or fusis? It’s time for English to drop it’s classicist pretensions. Italian, Spanish and Portuguese already switched to spelling words fonetically.

  2. You may be interested to know that Google will *NEVER* show any regular search user more than 1000 results (and note that the often shown large numbers are really EXTREMELY hypothetical). I have also found that Google will show results which do not actually match the search query while at the some time NOT showing results that *ought to* match the search query. The main takeaway for me is this: People who use Google religiously seem *very* religious.

    Besides that, I find it very quaint and amusing when people cite such numbers as if that were some kind of scientific observation.

    LOL ;)


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