03 January 2014

Eating Crow

"Ακόμα και τα κοράκια στις στέγες cawing για το οποίο είναι αληθείς."

Courtesy of a translation engine the above Greek attributed to Callimachus by Sextus Empiricus (c. 160 – 210 AD) means:
"Even the crows on the roof-tops are cawing about which conditionals are true." Benson Mates.
Which is to say that I translated the English back into the Greek in which it was written. Now, this apparently has to do with logic (or Logic) and the ways in which statements "follow" premises--that is, how we assess the truth of conditionals.  I think.  In case it's not obvious by now, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Why, though, I came here to say this.  I found this different translation on a blog which I find far more interesting and stimulating.
“The very crows on the rooftops croak about what implications are sound.” 
In fact, from the snippets I've read while seeking translations to compare the Mates with the above by (?) J. N. Nielsen, the "conditionals" surrounding this statement by Callimachus have to do with the making of sounds and the making of meaning and the assertions that meaning making is human, mortal,  divine, animal, etc. and etc. and so on...

So, the poetry of this translation is more "sense-making" to me than the somewhat more "logical" terminology of the Mates translation.  (Though I suppose we can argue that crows are not frogs and so don't quite croak but, as Mates has it, caw.)

Crows croak and implicate sound in implicating the soundness of the croaks of crows.

Then there is the Kafka that I've used here a few times:
The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens. There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows. [Kaiser/Wilkins]
I would have to say that this aphorism from Kafka's "Blue Octavo Notebooks" seems to me to be a re-working of the Callimachus via Sextus Empiricus and that this simply says the language cannot contain the meaning.

Crows, 1
Logic, 0

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