Anaximander's Saying

The translations of Nietzsche and Diels arise from different impulses and intentions. Nonetheless they are hardly distinguishable. Diels' translation is in many respects the more literal. But if a translation is merely literal it cannot be assumed to be faithful. It only becomes faithful when its words are words that speak out of the language of the matter.

More important than the general agreement of the two translations is the conception of Anaximander which underlies them. Nietzsche takes him to belong to the pre-Platonics, Diels to the pre-Socratics. Both designations say the same. The implicit standard for explicating and judging the early thinkers is the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Both are taken as the philosophers of the Greeks who set the standard both before and after themselves. This perception, via Christian theology, has established itself as a general conviction that, to this very day, remains unshaken. Even where, in the meantime, philological and historical research has occupied itself more thoroughly with the philosophers before Plato and Aristotle, their interpretation is still guided by modern versions of Platonic and Aristotelian representations and concepts. This is even the case where one seeks to discover the archaic in early thinking by looking for parallels in classical archeology and literary history. lt remains within classical and classicistic representations. One speaks of archaic logic heedless of the fact that such a thing as logic exists for the first time within the Platonic and Aristotelian curriculwn.

Merely ignoring later representations leads nowhere unless we, first of all, look to how it stands with the matter which, in the translation from one language to another, is to be translated. The matter here, however, is the matter of thought. Granted that in translation we must take every care to attend to the philologically clarified language, first and foremost, nonetheless, we must think about the matter itself. Hence only the thinkers can help us in the attempt to translate the saying of this early thinker. When, however, we cast about for such help we search in vain.

The young Nietzsche does indeed, in his own way, establish a lively relationship to the personality of the pre-Platonic philosophers, but his interpretation of the texts are thoroughly commonplace, even quite superficial. The only Western thinker who has thoughtfully experienced the history of thought is Hegel. Yet even he has nothing to say about Anaximander's saying. Moreover, Hegel, too, shares the prevalent conviction concerning the classical character of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. He endorses the view which classifies the early thinkers as the "pre-Platonics" and "preSocratics" precisely through grasping them as the "pre-Aristotelians."