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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:

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