Essay Review. Heidegger’s Zollikon Seminars: The ‘American’ Translation (July 2003)

Essay Review
Heidegger’s Zollikon Seminars:
The ‘American’ Translation

Anthony Stadlen

[Existental Analysis 14.2 (July 2003): 354-372. Slightly expanded.]
Copyright © Anthony Stadlen 2003, 2020

Zollikon Seminars: Protocols–Conversations–Letters

Martin Heidegger (Edited by Medard Boss). (2001).
Translated, with notes and afterwords, by Franz Mayr and Richard Askay.
Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press,
xxxiii + 360 pp, ISBN 0-8101-1832-7 (cloth), ISBN 0-8101-1833-5 (paper).

This is the long-awaited English translation of Zollikoner Seminare. Medard Boss, in the title of his Preface to it, calls it the ‘American’ translation. It translates the first edition, published in Boss’s lifetime, but adds the preface by his widow, Marianne Boss-Linsmayer, which is the only addition to the second edition (Heidegger 1994 [1987]).[1]
The present article[2] confines itself to addressing the quality of the translation and the scholarship of the translators’ notes.[3]
Northwestern University Press announces, on the back cover of the paperback edition, that this is ‘the best and clearest introduction to Heidegger’s philosophy available’. This would be a reasonable claim to make for the German original. Teachers and students of philosophy and psychotherapy, among others, if they cannot follow the German, will be eager to buy this translation. They will take it on trust. The translators have a responsibility to honour that trust.
Professors Franz Mayr and Richard Askay, professors of philosophy at the University of Portland, have worked for at least twelve years on this translation. Medard Boss gave it his blessing, in advance, shortly before his death in 1990. Professors Kockelmans, Richardson, Schrag, Sheehan and Zimmerman assisted.
Readers will learn much about the Zollikon seminars, the conversations and the letters. Many passages read well. The seminars of 6 and 9 July 1964, the only ones where the awkward dialogue between Heidegger and the seminar participants was transcribed verbatim for the German edition (by Dr Erna Hoch, as she told me), come memorably to life in English. The remarkable seminar of 12 March 1965, where Heidegger invites each participant to ‘make-present’ the Zurich main railway station, is vividly translated. Some passages that are essential reading for psychotherapists, such as the 1963 Taormina conversations between Heidegger and Boss, and the seminar of 21 January 1965, with Heidegger’s extraordinary discussion of a 1930 case study of a ‘schizophrenic’, are on the whole quite well translated.
However, there are many occasions where this translation and notes fall short, to put it mildly, of acceptable standards of translation and scholarship.
In one of his last published letters to Boss, on 21 February 1971, the eighty-one-year-old Heidegger, himself (according to Boss) too frail to attend any more seminars, recommends which of his books participants should start with. The translators owe it to readers, as well as to Heidegger and Boss, to get this right, if nothing else. Heidegger suggests What Is Called Thinking? (1971 [1954], 1972 [1968]) and The Principle of Reason (1992a [1957], 1991 [1957]). He says (S. 361, p. 290)[4] they will make a contrast with ‘the causality of natural-scientific thinking’ (my translation).
Heidegger goes on: ‘Schließlich die Schrift Gelassenheit(Neske) mit dem Feldweggespräch’ (S. 361). In my translation: ‘Finally the short book “Gelassenheit” (Neske) with the “Feldweg conversation”’. The slim volume, Gelassenheit, published by Neske (Heidegger 1992b [1959]), translated as Discourse on Thinking (Heidegger 1969 [1966]), contains both the memorial address, ‘Gelassenheit’, for the Meßkirch-born composer, Conradin Kreutzer, and the dialogue, ‘Zur Erörterung der Gelassenheit: Aus einem Feldweggespräch über das Denken’, which Heidegger calls the ‘Feldweggespräch’ (‘conversation on the Feldweg’). ‘Gelassenheit’, an old term used by Meister Eckehart, means ‘releasedness’, ‘composure’, ‘serenity’. The ‘Feldweg’ (‘fieldpath’) is Heidegger’s beloved walk through the fields from his birthplace, Meßkirch.
Heidegger thus recommends starting with these three books which contrast meditative and calculative thinking.
The translators’ version is: ‘Finally, the book Gelassenheit could be contrasted with the Feldweggerspräch’ (sic, p. 290). Apart from the misspelling of ‘Feldweggespräch’, the words ‘could be contrasted’ are pure invention. All Heidegger says is ‘with’. Why would he want students to contrast his whole book with its second half? The translators compound the muddle by falsely indicating, in a footnote to the so-spelled ‘Feldweggerspräch’, that this is the essay, later printed as a short book, Der Feldweg (Heidegger 1989 [1949]). But Der Feldweg is Heidegger’s meditation on the Feldweg itself, which is not a ‘conversation’ at all. Why would Heidegger want students to contrast Gelassenheit and Der Feldweg, two essays in meditative thinking?
Incidentally, in Heidegger’s letter to Boss of 30 June 1955 from Meßkirch, a few months before giving his ‘Gelassenheit’ address there, he writes that, when his brother, Fritz, and he have been walking ‘on the Feldweg or through the woods, the world-bustle seemed to us like a madhouse’ (S. 316, my translation). The translators render ‘Feldweg’ as ‘country road’ (p. 251), which misses the poignancy of the specific allusion.
In a footnote to the very first page (p. 3) of their translation of the actual seminars, the translators render Heidegger’s term ‘Lichtung’ as ‘“lighting” or “clearing”’. But they themselves translate correctly (p. 13) Heidegger’s clarification that ‘Lichtung’ ‘has nothing to do with light but is derived from “lighten” [unburden]’.       
The translators misrepresent not just Heidegger, but also Freud and Boss.
The publishers tell us, on the back cover of the paperback version, that Professor Askay has published journal articles on ‘Freudian psychoanalysis’. But the translators do not appear to know what Freud’s ‘Grundregel’ is (S. 282, p. 224). Had they only translated literally, we might never have guessed they did not know. The standard translation of Freud’s ‘Grundregel’ is literal: ‘fundamental rule’. The rule states (my translation): ‘that one should communicate without criticism all that comes to mind’ (GW 8: 373; SE 12: 107)[5]. It is central to psychoanalysis. But, in this translation, ‘Freuds Grundregel’ (S. 282) is mistranslated as ‘Freud’s basic approach [genetic-causal explanation]’ (p. 224, translators’ brackets). This mistranslation misleads readers, and traduces both Freud and Heidegger, by failing to convey Heidegger’s specific, though questionable, criticism, in a discussion with Boss on 27 September 1968, that Freud’s fundamental rule is ‘far removed from a phenomenological instruction’ (S. 282, p. 224, my translation).
There are similar inaccuracies about Boss’s writings. The footnote to Heidegger’s letter to Boss of 25 November 1950 mentions Heidegger’s participation in a congress at which ‘Medard Boss über eine Kastrations-Therapie bei einem schweren Fetischisten gesprochen hatte’ (S. 303). This means (my translation), ‘Medard Boss had spoken about a castration-therapy with a severe fetishist.’ The translators render this: ‘Medard Boss discussed a castration [complex] therapy in a patient with a deep-seated fetish complex’ (p. 340, n. 1 to Part III, their brackets). They thus supply, not just one, but two, ‘complex[es]’, neither of them mentioned by Boss. Presumably they do so lest we suppose Boss means actual castration of an actual fetishist.
But this is just what he does mean. The patient was, indeed, castrated, on Boss’s recommendation.[6] Boss described the case at the 66th congress of South-West-German psychiatrists and neurologists, held from 2–3 June 1950 at Badenweiler. This led to a debate, fifty-eight pages long, in the 1950–1951 volume of the journal, Psyche. The editor, Alexander Mitscherlich, reporting the first part of the congress, on Daseinsanalysis, criticized Boss (Psyche, 4.4: 229–233). He also reported Heidegger’s contribution to the discussion (4.4: 234). Boss replied (4.7: 394–400), arguing that physical castration had saved his transvestite patient from ‘total spiritual castration’ (4.7: 399). The journal then published lengthy comments of twenty-four eminent psychiatrists, including Bally, Binder, Binswanger, Manfred Bleuler, Jung, Kemper, Schultz-Hencke, Seitz, Staehelin, and von Weizsäcker (4.8: 448–474; 4.11: 626–635), with responses by Mitscherlich (4.8: 474–477; 4.11: 640) and Boss (4.11: 635–640). Regine Lockot (1994: 300–314) published extracts in her book, Die Reinigung der Psychoanalyse. The translators could have learned about this affair, had they inquired.
It is possible to glean some black humour from comparing their error with a complementary one. Jung’s English editors wrote (CW 8: 347)[7]: ‘The treatment ended with the total castration of the patient by Dr. Boss, including amputation of the penis with implantation of artificial labiae.’ Thus, while the translators of Zollikoner Seminare assume that this was merely ‘therapy’ for a ‘castration complex’, Jung’s editors assert that Boss concluded his ‘treatment’ by personally castrating his patient.
But it is not amusing that readers will trust that the interpolations in the translation are based on evidence, when we have seen that they are not.
The translators claim: ‘The second edition of Der Traum und seine Auslegung ... was published under the new title: “Es träumte mir vergangene Nacht…” … ’ (p. 245). These are, of course, two completely different books by Boss, namely, his first (1953) and second (1991 [1975b]) dream-books, translated respectively as The Analysis of Dreams (1957a [1953]) and “I dreamt last night…” (1977a [1975b]).
Again, in the translation, the little daughter of Boss’s ‘test case’, Regula Zürcher, in Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology (Boss 1975a [1971], 1983 [1971]), is referred to as ‘him’. Heidegger refers to her as ‘das Kind’ and ‘ihm’. The pronoun should therefore be ‘it’, or ‘her’ (S. 274, p. 219). It is, incidentally, both an anachronism and incorrect to translate Heidegger’s reference to ‘Frau Zürcher’ as ‘Ms. Zürcher’ (S. 199, p. 155).
The above examples all involve careless, and even reckless, scholarship. Other footnotes are similarly misleading. For instance, ‘Mitscherlich’, in the same letter of 25 November 1950, is not ‘a famous German sociologist’, ‘W. Mitscherlich’ (S. 303, p. 240, n.). He is Alexander Mitscherlich, the psychotherapist and editor of Psyche.
There are many elementary errors of translation. In many instances, the English reads so strangely that it is obvious something is amiss.
In Boss’s Preface to the first edition, he writes that Heidegger hoped for much from an association ‘mit einem Arzt, der sein Denken weitgehend zu verstehen schien’ (S. X, 1st edn; S. XII, 2nd edn). This means: ‘with a doctor who seemed largely to understand his thinking’ (my translation). The translators put it: ‘Heidegger had set great hope on an association with a doctor and had a seemingly extensive understanding of his thought’ (p. xvii, my italics). This makes it sound as if Boss is claiming, conceitedly, that Heidegger has ‘a seemingly extensive understanding’ of Boss’s ‘thought’. Why did this not alert the translators to their mistranslation?
Two pages later, Boss describes the interplay, in the seminars, of Heidegger’s questioning and the students’ silence. He writes: ‘Many of the participants seemed downright shocked and outraged that one permitted oneself to question in such a way’ (my translation). The German is: ‘... daß man so zu fragen sich erlaubte’ (S. XII, 1st edn; S. XIV, 2nd edn). This is translated as: ‘… that such questions would be permitted in the first place’ (p. xviii). Is Boss supposed to be saying that the participants disapproved of some unspecified authority, perhaps Boss himself, for permitting Heidegger to ask such questions?
A typical combination of errors occurs in the translation of one of Heidegger’s letters. He writes to Boss on 7 July 1969 that questioning the history of natural science ‘dient nicht einem bloß antiquarischen Interesse der Wissenschaftsgeschichte’ (S. 357). This means (my translation): ‘does not serve a merely antiquarian interest of the history of science’. Their translation reads: ‘does not merely serve as a secondary, antiquated [antiquarisch] interest in the history of science’ (p. 286, translators’ brackets). This does not make sense. The ‘secondary’ is invented. ‘Dient’ with the dative means, simply, ‘serve’, not ‘serve as’. ‘Interesse’ with the genitive means ‘interest of’, not ‘interest in’. Finally, ‘antiquarisch’ means ‘antiquarian’, not ‘antiquated’. The German for ‘antiquated’ is ‘antiquiert’. The translators put ‘antiquarisch’ in square brackets after mistranslating it, as if to show that this is some obscure Heideggerian neologism, for which they have sensitively struggled to find an English equivalent. But these are all commonplace words about which there is no doubt at all.
Heidegger sends Boss, as a present for his sixtieth birthday, his preface to his record of Hölderlin readings. This is difficult to translate, but the translators compound its difficulty by not translating literally where possible. By trying to be ‘poetic’, while ignoring syntax and meaning, they miss both poetry and plain sense. Heidegger writes (S. 333):

Der Dank ist das scheu verehrende, zustimmende Andenken an das Gewährte, und sei dies nur ein Zeichen in die Nähe zur Flucht der uns schonenden Götter.

A first draft of a reasonable translation might read:

Thanking is the shyly [or reticently] reverential, assenting remembrance of what is granted, even if this be only a hint towards nearness to the flight of the gods who spare us.

The translators render it (p. 266, their brackets):

Thanking is the awe-inspiring, reverential, accepting remembrance [Andenken] of what was granted, and it is only a sign pointing toward the vicinity of the fleeing gods, who are saving us.

This makes no sense. How could ‘thanking’ or ‘remembrance’ itself be ‘awe-inspiring’? And that is not what ‘scheu’ means. It means ‘shy’, or ‘reticent’. But here it is an adverb, ‘shyly’, or ‘reticently’. ‘Zustimmende’ means ‘assenting’ rather than ‘accepting’. The translators imply that ‘thanking’ is the ‘sign’. But ‘und sei dies’ means ‘even if this be’, or ‘be this’. It does not mean ‘and it is’. The ‘und’ is concessive, the ‘sei’ subjunctive. ‘Dies’, ‘this’, indicates ‘what is granted’, not ‘thanking’. As for ‘in die Nähe zur Flucht der uns schonenden Götter’, this speaks of ‘nearness’, not to ‘the gods’, but to their ‘flight’. Also, ‘schonenden’ means ‘sparing’, not ‘saving’.

  [Note (2020): Keith Hoeller, in his translation of HeideggerElucidations of Hölderlins Poetry (2000: 225), had already excellently rendered this sentence:

   Thanks is a shyly venerating, concordant remembrance of what is granted, be it even only a pointing
   toward the nearness to the flight of the gods who have protected us.]

   Some of the passages of greatest significance for existential psychotherapists are mistranslated. The following examples, from seminars, conversations and letters, are in chronological order.
Heidegger’s Taormina conversations with Boss in April and May 1963 are of central importance for psychotherapists. The translation gives a general impression of them, but is inaccurate at many points.
For example, Heidegger says of physiological explanations (S. 200):

Aus dem Faktum, daß durch chemische Eingriffe in das als etwas Chemisches umgedeutete Leibliche etwas bewirkt werden kann, wird geschlossen, daß der Chemismus des Physiologischen der Grund und die Ursache des menschlich Psychischen sei. Dies ist ein Fehlschluß…

In my translation:

From the fact that something can be effected by chemical interventions into the bodily reinterpreted as something chemical, it is concluded that the chemistry of the physiological is the ground and cause of the human psychical. This is a false conclusion…

The translators render the first part of this as follows (p. 155, their brackets):

From the fact that human bodily being [Leibliche] is interpreted as something chemical and as something which can be affected by chemical interventions it is concluded that…

But ‘umdeuten’ means ‘to reinterpret’, or ‘to change the meaning of’, not ‘to interpret’. ‘Bewirken’ means ‘to effect’, not ‘to affect’. Heidegger’s starting-point is that, in reality, ‘something can be effected by chemical interventions into the bodily’. This is neither an interpretation nor a reinterpretation, but a formidable fact [Faktum]. Heidegger is saying that, from this fact, together with the fact that ‘the bodily’ is ‘reinterpreted as something chemical’, the ‘false conclusion’ has been drawn that ‘the chemistry of the physiological is the ground and cause of the human psychical’. But the translators muddle the syntax and make him appear to say that people conclude this from ‘interpret[ation]’ alone.
Heidegger goes on to denounce Professor Prader for ‘simply transfer[ring] the concept of “individual” and “individuality” from the human self to molecules’ (S. 200, my translation and brackets). Heidegger calls this a ‘Schwindel’, i.e., a ‘swindle’. The translators censor this, substituting the milder word, ‘deception’ (p. 156).
Heidegger’s Taormina remarks on ‘introjection’ are crucial for psychotherapists (S. 208, p. 163). But the translation omits a whole sentence: ‘Es geht auf in den Weisen des In-der-Welt-seins der Mutter.’ In my translation: ‘It [the child] is absorbed in the mother’s ways of being-in-the-world’. And the meaning of the final sentence of the passage is destroyed by the translators’ interpolations. Heidegger says:

Es ist ‘draußen’ noch verhaftet in die Weisen des In-der-Welt-seins eines anderen Menschen, seiner Mutter.

In my translation:

It is ‘out there’ still caught up into the ways of being-in-the-world of another human being, its mother.

But the translators render this (their brackets):

Even [when the child is] ‘out there’, he is still tied to the ways of another human being’s being-in-the-world – his mother’s.

This translation makes nonsense of what Heidegger is saying. ‘Even’ and ‘when’ are inventions. Heidegger’s point is that the child is ‘out there’.
His Taormina remarks on ‘transference’ are equally important. But again the translation is a travesty. Heidegger begins (S. 210):

Das Wesentliche ist, daß ein im psychologischen Sinne ‘übertragender’ Mensch in einer bestimmten Gestimmtheit festgehalten ist…

In my translation:

The essential [fact] is that a human being ‘transferring’ in the psychological sense is held fast in a definite attunement…

The translators’ version reads (p. 165):

It is essential that the human being, engaging in ‘transference’ in the psychological sense, be retained as being in a specific attunement…

They have changed Heidegger’s straightforward indicative statement into a bizarre exhortation. ‘Ist’ means ‘is’, not ‘be’. And they have invented ‘as being’. They appear to think Heidegger is urging that it is ‘essential’ that the idea of the ‘transferring’ human being ‘as being’ in a specific attunement ‘be retained’. But he is simply stating, as an ‘essential’ fact, that the ‘transferring’ human being is ‘held fast’ in such an attunement.
In the seminars of 24 and 28 January 1964, the first in Boss’s house that were transcribed, Heidegger alleges (S. 6, p. 5):

…in Freuds Abhandlung über die Fehlhandlungen sind solche Suppositionen die Strebungen und Kräfte. Diese angenommenen Strebungen und Kräfte verursachen und bewirken die Phänomene.

In my translation:

…in Freud’s treatise on the faulty actions [parapraxes or mischievements] such suppositions are the strivings and forces. These assumed strivings and forces cause and produce the phenomena.

The translators translate ‘Strebungen’, not as ‘strivings’, or even as ‘trends’, Strachey’s Standard Edition translation of the term, but as ‘drives’. They also claim, in a footnote, that the ‘treatise’ Heidegger is referring to is The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. This translation and this claim are both problematic.
The translation of ‘Strebungen’ as ‘drives’ is wrong for the following reasons. The plural noun ‘drives’ occurs only once (Guttman et al. 1984) in the entire English Standard Edition of Freud’s works, and there (SE 5: 657) it is a question of Freud’s ‘cab-drives’ with a ‘relative’, probably Minna Bernays (Swales 1982). But ‘drive’ has often been suggested as a better translation for ‘Trieb’, which the Standard Edition translates as ‘instinct’. The translators of Zollikon Seminars correctly translate ‘Trieb’ as ‘drive’ when Heidegger criticizes Freud’s ‘drive’ (i.e., ‘instinct’) theory (S. 217–219, pp. 172–174). By translating ‘Strebungen’ as ‘drives’, they make it appear that this is what Heidegger is talking about in the above quotation, too. This is misleading, because, as Freud uses the terms, ‘the opposition of conscious and unconscious has no application to the drive [Trieb]’ (GW 10: 275; SE 14: 177; my translation), so that ‘Trieb’ is, in principle, unphenomenological, whereas ‘Strebung’ can be, for instance, ‘ethical’ (GW 8: 56; SE 11: 52), and is in no way inherently unphenomenological, though it can be on occasion (GW 15: 112; SE 22: 105).
Heidegger himself appears aware that ‘Strebungen’ may be phenomenological. In a conversation with Boss on 7 July 1966 at Zollikon, he says (S. 265):

Das, was man psychologisch Strebungen nennt, spielt sich daseinsmäßig gesehen im Bereiche der Sorge … ab…

The translators render this adequately as (p. 212, their brackets):

Seen from the perspective of Da-sein, what one calls “strivings” [Strebungen] in psychology take place in the domain of care [Sorge]…

So here they do translate ‘Strebungen’ as ‘strivings’. But this only makes it more confusing when they translate it as ‘drives’, especially as they do not then indicate that it is ‘Strebungen’ that they are translating.
As for the claim that Heidegger means the Psychopathology, that work on the ‘parapraxes’ is indeed a ‘treatise’ (‘Abhandlung’), referred to as such by Freud himself (GW 4: 179; SE 6: 162; my translation). But the word ‘Strebungen’ does not appear even once in it (Guttman et al. 1995). ‘Strebung’ appears just once (Guttman et al. 1995), in a footnote (GW 4: 60, n. 1; SE 6: 51, n. 2) added by Freud in 1924 to this work published in 1901, but it is phenomenological, autobiographical, from his own memories of childhood, not in the least mechanistic. So, if Heidegger is alluding to the Psychopathology, he would appear to be pronouncing on a book he has not read.
However, Heidegger’s reference to ‘assumed strivings [Strebungen]’ indicates that he is thinking of a sentence from Part 1 (‘Parapraxes’) of the Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (GW 11: 62; SE 15: 67): ‘Die wahrgenommenen Phänomene müssen in unserer Auffassung gegen die nur angenommenen Strebungen zurücktreten.’ In my translation: ‘The perceived phenomena must in our conception step back before the merely assumed strivings.’ Binswanger (1947a [1936]: 165; 1963a [1936]: 156) drew attention to this sentence in his lecture for Freud’s eightieth birthday; and, in his case of ‘Ellen West’ (1957a [1944–45]: 142, 150; 1958 [1944–45]: 319, 327), he called this sentence a ‘Grundsatz’ (‘fundamental principle’) of psychoanalysis. Binswanger, Boss, Heidegger, Condrau, Holzhey-Kunz, Cohn have cited it in at least thirty books or papers (Stadlen 2003a: 163–166, note 77; 174–176, Appendix).
A further allusion confirms that Heidegger has this ‘Grundsatz’ in mind (S. 7, p. 7): ‘Nach welcher Hinsicht müssen gemäß Freud die Phänomene zurücktreten gegen die Annahmen?’ In my translation: ‘In what respect must according to Freud the phenomena step back before the assumptions?’ A translators’ note could have clarified this.
In any event, Heidegger is repeating the claim of Binswanger et al. that the ‘Grundsatz’ shows Freud was no phenomenologist. But the claim already depends on taking ‘Strebungen’ as speculative, mechanistic, unphenomenological (Stadlen 1999; 2003a: 163–166, note 77). Mistranslating ‘Strebungen’ as ‘drives’ further prejudices a fair evaluation.
The seminars of 6 and 9 July 1964 are, as mentioned above, the only ones transcribed verbatim. Dr Erna Hoch, who transcribed them, was an outstandingly honest reporter, who paid meticulous attention to detail (see, for example, Hoch 1991). Heidegger’s lucid discussion in the 9 July seminar, of human motivation as opposed to natural-scientific causality, deserves to be read by all psychotherapists. The translators, however, introduce some confusion by attributing to a seminar participant an allusion to ‘the burgher-prince [and] the motive for the [criminal] act’ (p. 21, their brackets). Who is this ‘burgher-prince’ and what has he to do with ‘the motive for the [criminal] act’? Is he a character in some German Märchen or Novelle with which the cultured reader is expected to be so au fait that no translators’ note is needed? In fact, the seminar participant mentions, not ‘the burgher-prince’, but ‘Bürger-Prinz’ (S. 25), presumably the psychiatrist Hans Bürger-Prinz of Hamburg, who had published in the field of forensic psychiatry (and, as a Nazi judge at the Hereditary Health Court, ruled who should be compulsorily sterilised).
As mentioned above, the seminar of 21 January 1965, where Heidegger discusses Franz Fischer’s (1930: 249–252) case study of a ‘schizophrenic’, is mostly well translated. But there is a flaw of a characteristic kind. Fischer describes the patient’s ‘Betrachtung des Uhrzeigers an einer Wanduhr’ (S. 66), i.e., his ‘contemplation of the clock-hand on a wall clock’ (my translation). But the translators render this as ‘looking at the hands of a wall clock’ (p. 52, my italics). They repeatedly translate ‘der Zeiger’ and ‘der Uhrzeiger’ as ‘hands’, although both words mean a single hand of the clock. The patient himself refers to ‘hands’ only once, when he says that the clock jumps around ‘mit vielen Zeigern’ (S. 67), i.e., ‘with many hands’. It is ironic that the translation distorts what the patient says, when Heidegger is castigating Fischer for doing just that.
The ‘phenomenological’ psychiatrist, Eugène Minkowski, made the same error in his French translation of the same passage from Fischer in Le Temps Vécu (1995 [1933]: 265). So did Minkowski’s translator in Lived Time (1970: 288) and Boss’s translator in Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology (1983 [1979]: 229). But many wrongs do not make a right. (See also Stadlen and Stadlen 2005.)
In the seminar of 23 November 1965, Heidegger asks what Freud understands by analysis. The following exchange occurs (S. 148, my translation and brackets):

S. [Seminar participant]: Freud means by that the tracing back [Zurückführung] of the symptoms to their origin.

H. [Heidegger]: Why then does he name a tracing-back [Zurückführung] analysis?

S.: In analogy to chemical analysis, and this also indeed wants to go back [zurückgehen] to the elements.

H.: It would therefore be a matter of a reduction [Zurückführung] to the elements in the sense that the given, the symptoms, gets broken up [aufgelöst] into elements with the intention of explaining the symptoms by the elements thus obtained. Analysis in the Freudian sense would therefore be a reduction [Zurückführung] in the sense of the breaking up in the service of causal explanation.
Now, not every tracing-back [Zurückführung] to a whence of being and persisting has to be an analysis in the sense just stated.

The translators render all five instances of ‘Zurückführung’ in the above extract as ‘reduction’ (p. 113). This distorts the meaning of the exchange. It is not clear whether one or two seminar participants are speaking. But ‘Zurückführung’ is being used in two different senses: ‘tracing back’, which can be existential-phenomenological; and ‘reduction’, of a causal-mechanistic, reductive kind, not a phenomenological ‘Reduktion’. The translators collapse the two meanings into ‘reduction’. This is itself a crude reduction. Heidegger’s whole point is, as he says, that ‘not every tracing-back … has to be an analysis in the sense just stated’, i.e., a reduction.
Heidegger himself exploits the ambiguity of ‘Zurückführung’ to claim Freudian analysis is reductive. He goes on (my translation):

Neither in Freud’s writings nor in Jones’s biography of Freud is there to be found any passage where it emerges why Freud chose just this word analysis as title of his theoretical attempt.

This is false. The translators could, had they checked, have inserted a note to this effect. Freud does ask, and answer, the question, ‘Why analysis”?’ (GW 12: 184; SE 17: 159). ‘Because,’ he says (my translation), ‘such an analogy [with chemical analysis] really stands up in an important respect.’ But he insists (GW 12: 186; SE 17: 161; my translation): ‘The psychical is something so uniquely particular that no single simile can convey its nature. The psychoanalytic work presents analogies with chemical analysis, but equally with the incision of the surgeon or the intervention of the orthopaedist or the influence of the educator.’
Heidegger’s critique of Freud’s ‘theory’ is unrelenting, and not always soundly based on Freud’s texts. Yet we know from Boss’s account (1982a [1977b]: 214–215; 1988 [1978–79]: 9–10) that Heidegger shared, at least to some extent, the warm appreciation Boss expressed in Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis (1963 [1957]) for the phenomenological aspects of Freud’s practice. Boss and Holzhey-Kunz wrote (1982 [1981]: 111; my translation): ‘Daseinsanalysis in itself wants to be nothing other than a purified [geläuterte] psychoanalysis.’ Heidegger presumably takes this as read, and gets to work on the ‘metapsychology’, which Freud himself said was dispensable (GW 14: 303; SE 20: 266). But some readers may conclude, wrongly, that Heidegger and Boss are saying Freud can be dismissed. This translation, by mistranslating Freud’s terms to make them appear more mechanistic and reductive than they are, can only reinforce such an impression.
In the same seminar of 23 November 1965, Heidegger returns to a recurring theme: his indignation at Binswanger for accusing him of excluding love from his thinking. Binswanger had presumed to ‘supplement’ Heidegger’s supposedly ‘dismal’ ‘care’ with ‘love’, the ‘dual mode’, ‘being-beyond-the-world’, and so on. The earliest mention of this in Zollikon Seminars is in Heidegger’s letter to Boss of 10 February 1953. He reports that Binswanger was ‘armed with a gigantic manuscript [Riesenmanuskript] on “[E]ccentricity”…. I stated my critique and clearly said, among other things, that the analysis strikes me as very eccentric’ (S. 308, p. 245, their translation, my brackets). The translators here accurately convey Heidegger’s biting humour. But elsewhere they inexplicably flatten the strength of Heidegger’s feelings. For example, in Heidegger’s conversation with Boss on 14 July 1969, he says (S. 286, my translation): ‘Binswanger betrays [his] complete misunderstanding of my thinking most crassly in his gigantic book…’. The translators render ‘am krassesten’ (‘most crassly’) as ‘in the most striking way’, and they demote the ‘Riesenbuch’ (‘gigantic book’) to a merely ‘huge’ one (p. 227).
In the same conversation, Heidegger (S. 286, my translation) misquotes Binswanger as calling the subject-object split ‘das Krebsübel der Psychiatrie’ (‘the cancerous evil of psychiatry’). Binswanger, in his lecture, ‘On the daseinsanalytic research direction in psychiatry’, had called it ‘the cancerous evil of all psychology(1947b [1946]: 193; 1958b [1946]: 193; my translation of title and text, my emphasis). It would have helped if the translators had noted this and given the source. They render ‘Krebsübel’ as ‘cancer’ (p. 227), while Ernest Angel, in Existence (edited by May et al.), translates it as ‘fatal defect’ (Binswanger 1958b [1946]: 193). Neither of these is strong enough.
On 2 August 1969, shortly before his eightieth birthday, Heidegger sends Boss a short text on Freud’s concept of ‘repression’. It is of fundamental importance for psychotherapists and others seeking Heidegger’s views on ‘repression’. Heidegger affirms repression, but as ‘an ecstatic-intentional world-relationship to things, living beings and fellow human beings’, rather than as the outcome of ‘a psychical mechanics or dynamics’ (my translation). He writes (S. 357):

In der Verdrängung wird das den Menschen angehende so wenig beseitigt, daß es vielmehr den Verdrängenden erst recht in einer besonders hartnäckigen Weise betrifft.

In my translation:

In repression, what is concerning the human being is so little got rid of that, much rather, it now really affects the repressing [person] in a particularly obstinate way.

The translators render it (p. 287):

In repression, what concerns the human being is to avoid so little that it affects the one who tries to repress it in an even more obstinate way.

The syntax is quite wrong. Once again, it needs no knowledge of German to see that this is nonsense.
In the next example, a bracketed interpolation by the translators again destroys the meaning of a sentence. Heidegger, aged eighty-two, in one of his last conversations with Boss, on 2 March 1972, discusses dreaming and waking (S. 288):

Man kann nicht sagen, wenn man aufwacht, dann befinde man sich in derselben Welt, sondern umgekehrt: das Aufwachen besteht gerade darin, daß einem die Welt als dieselbe begegnet, die man gewohnt ist im Wachen.

In my translation:

One cannot say, if one wakes up, then one finds oneself in the same world, but rather the other way round: waking up consists precisely in [the fact] that one encounters the world as the same that one is used to in being awake.

The translators render it (p. 228, their brackets):

When one wakes up, one cannot say that he then finds himself in the same world [as in dreaming], but rather the other way round: Waking up consists precisely in [the fact] that one encounters the world as the same one he is accustomed to in being awake.

The interpolation of ‘[as in dreaming]’ undermines the translation. Heidegger is not here comparing the waking world to that of dreaming. He is saying that the dreamer does not first ‘wake’, and then find himself in the same ‘waking world’ as before. Rather, encountering the world as ‘the same’ is what waking is. This is fundamental. The passage as a whole is one of the few where psychotherapists can study Heidegger’s own words on dreaming and waking, rather than Boss’s.
   [Note (2020): That is, if these really were Heidegger’s own words rather than Boss’s. It is disconcerting to compare this passage with the final chapter of Boss’s first dream-book. Many of the observations Heidegger’ allegedly makes in his conversation with Boss in 1972, including this one, had already, miraculously, been made by Boss in his book of 1953. Heidegger’ in 1972 even repeats Bosss specific 1953 observation that a dream does not differ from waking as a fox does from an eagle. It is true that Boss, in that book, reports a number of dreams as evidence that dreams can be prophetic, but he modestly does not claim this for his book itself.]
   It is again odd that the translators did not notice that their interpolation, ‘[as in dreaming]’, renders the sentence senseless.
A little later, in the same conversation, Heidegger says (S. 288) [Note (2020): again, as Boss had done in 1953]:

Jedenfalls gehört es nicht zum Wesen des Träumens, daß ich in dieselbe Welt ‘erträume’, wie es zum Wesen des Erwachens gehört, daß ich in dieselbe Welt hinein erwache.

In my translation:

In any case, it does not belong to the essence of dreaming that I ‘adreamen’ into the same world, as it belongs to the essence of waking that I awaken into the same world.

The translators put it (pp. 228–229):

In any case, it does not belong to the essence of dreaming ‘to dream’ in the same world as it belongs to the essence of waking up, to wake up into the same world.

This misses the point that Heidegger has coined a new word, ‘erträumen’, which could be translated as ‘adreamen’, by analogy with ‘erwachen’, ‘awaken’. The inverted commas round ‘to dream’ do not convey this. Also, ‘in’ with the accusative means ‘into’, not ‘in’. And what is wrong with Heidegger’s ‘ich’ (‘I’)?
Heidegger alludes in this conversation to various specific dreams, in addition to his own ‘Abitur’ (‘matriculation’) dream (Boss 1982a [1977b]: 218–220; 1988 [1978–9]: 12–13, 20). A translators’ note could have clarified these allusions. Boss, in a note (S. 288, n. 1; p. 340, n. 1 to March 2, 1972), explains that the basis of the conversation was the preparation of his second, 1975, dream-book, “Es träumte mir vergangene Nacht…” (1991 [1975b]), later translated as “I dreamt last night…” (1977a [1975b]). The translators might have discovered the source of these dreams, and informed readers, had they perused Boss’s two dream-books and noticed that they are not different editions of the same book (see above).
The dreams are found in Boss’s first dream-book, Der Traum und seine Auslegung (1953), translated as The Analysis of Dreams (1957a [1953]). Heidegger mentions (S. 290, pp. 229–230, my translation) a patient of Boss’s who dreams that ‘a woman dressed in red is at first dead and then finally in later dreams is dancing’. These dreams come from a series of 823 dreamed by an engineer. In one dream there was an ‘unconscious’, not ‘dead’, woman dressed in red; and then, in a single later dream, the dreamer danced and fell in love with a woman ‘similarly’ dressed in blood-red (Boss 1953: 127; 1957a [1953]: 114). However, Boss himself at the end of his book says the woman was the same in both dreams (1953: 235–236; 1957a [1953]: 210). In the same paragraph at the end of the book, Boss mentions a ‘mountain-climber-dream’ in terms that tally with Heidegger’s remark, ‘Every dreaming is a being-in-the-world and can have in itself a certain history (as e.g. with the mountain-climber-dream)’ (S. 290, p. 230, my translation). It is interesting that, when Heidegger discussed Boss’s forthcoming dream-book with him in 1972, he cited these dreams from Boss’s first dream-book, published nineteen years earlier.
[Note (2020): Though it is somewhat less impressive if the ‘Heidegger who speaks here is, as I have suggested above, none other than Boss himself. I do not mean to imply that Heidegger did not endorse Bosss views or indeed contribute to them in 1953 and reaffirm them in 1972. It seems likely that, precisely because Heidegger did so that Boss felt justified in attributing his own 1953 words directly to ‘Heidegger in the conversation of 1972.]  
A final example of mistranslation: Heidegger’s crossed-out ‘Sein’ is not translated in the standard way as a crossed-out ‘being’ (S. 240, p. 193), but as ‘[appropriated by] being’ (translators’ brackets). This gives no idea of Heidegger’s adventurous notation.
The proofreading seems to have been skimpy. Teilhard de Chardin’s book, The Phenomenon of Man, is not ‘The Phenomenology of Man’ (p. 56, n.). And what about ‘L’Ecircumflextre et le Néant’ by ‘Satre’ (p. 157, n.)?
Greek words are written with Greek letters, but breathings and accents are bestowed on only a few of the words, apparently completely haphazardly.
Square brackets appear in profusion. But they are oddly used. The translators have Heidegger saying, in the seminar of 8 July 1965, ‘[we] medical professionals’ (p. 103, their brackets). This means Heidegger did not say ‘we’ but implied it. But the original (S. 133) has him saying, rhetorically, ‘wir im ärztlichen Beruf’ (‘we in the medical profession’). If the translators wanted to signal disbelief, they could have inserted ‘[sic]’.
Again, in a letter of 26 March 1960 (S. 319, p. 254), Heidegger characterises the theme of a psychology congress as ‘dem ganzen Salat’, ‘the whole mess’ (my translation). He then says, ‘verzeihen Sie’, which the translators render as ‘[excuse me]’ (their brackets), as if he had not said these words. But he had said them.
Even odder is their rendering of a phrase of Descartes’s as: ‘[n]ous rendre comme maîtres et possesseurs de la nature’ (their brackets). The original, again, has not ‘Nous’, nor ‘vous’, nor even ‘tous’, but, precisely, ‘nous’ (S. 136, p. 105).
Conversely, when square brackets are called for, they are often omitted. When Heidegger says, ‘Hölderlin sagt…’ (S. 183), the translation makes him say, portentously, ‘Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin says…’ (p. 140).
In the seminar of 11 May 1965, Heidegger reads (S. 100–102, pp. 77–78) from a lecture on psychosomatics by Dr R. Hegglin. In the German, this is clearly set off from Heidegger’s comments by quotation marks and paragraph breaks. In the translation, the start gets a quotation mark but no new paragraph; the end gets a new paragraph but no quotation mark. The reader has to struggle to work out where the extract starts and ends.
Finally, there is an elementary publishing error. The cover of the paperback has a photograph of Heidegger and Boss, back to front. It was the right way round in Zollikoner Seminare (opposite S. 324), with a note that the men are in conversation on the Feldweg at Meßkirch in 1963. The note is missing from the paperback. Those who have paid nearly a hundred dollars for the hardback do not get the photograph at all.
The original photograph shows Boss on Heidegger’s left. Those who know Meßkirch can see that the shadows fall westward, so it is morning, the time when, Boss tells us (1982a [1977b]: 212; 1988 [1978–9]: 8), Heidegger said ‘das Denken’ came upon him. Heidegger wears a man’s jacket, buttoning on the right. The paperback shows Boss on Heidegger’s right, the shadows falling to the right, so that it appears to be afternoon. And Heidegger’s jacket seems to button the woman’s way.
One does not expect such an elementary mistake from a university publisher. It is particularly unfortunate, as in the book itself Heidegger is shown patiently trying to teach seminar participants to see the nature of lived space, which is not reversible.
The errors of translation cannot be justified by quoting Heidegger on ‘übersetzen’and ‘übersetzen’ (p. 331). The accumulation of errors is insidious. It erodes meaning, and makes it difficult to trust the translation as a whole. Anyone wishing to quote it should first consult the original, with the help, if necessary, of a knowledgeable speaker of German.
It is surprising that the review of this translation in this Journal, by Professor Miles Groth (2002), does not mention the translation itself. The review even reports, accurately, Heidegger’s recommendations for reading. But it omits to mention that, as documented above, the translation confuses the ‘Feldweggesprächwith Der Feldweg and misrepresents Heidegger as wanting readers to contrast Der Feldweg with Gelassenheit. Thus the review silently corrects, and covers over, these errors.

[Revised ending (2020): In my original (2002) and (2003) reviews, at the request of the editor of Daseinsanalyse, Dr. Holger Helting, I hoped for an improved’ and corrected second edition of the present translation. We have been spared that. But, thirty-three years after this extraordinary book was published, there is still an urgent need for a good English translation.]


[1] The translation indicates the page numbers of the first German edition, not of the second. These numbers differ only for Boss’s (otherwise identical) preface to the German editions.

[2] This article is a slightly revised version of a review (Stadlen 2003c) published in Existential Analysis, itself a longer version of a review (Stadlen 2002) published in the Daseinsanalyse yearbook. I thank Dr. Holger Helting, the editor of Daseinsanalyse, for his permission to publish. I am grateful to Mr Martin Davies, Prof. Dr. med. et phil. Gion Condrau, Dr. Holger Helting, Mr Richard Skues, Mrs Hedi Stadlen, Mrs Naomi Stadlen, and Ms Daniela Zimmermann for their constructive suggestions and criticisms.

[3] For an examination of some aspects of the book itself, particularly of Heidegger’s and Boss’s medicalising of Da-sein, see Stadlen 2003b: 166–167, 173–175; and Stadlen and Stadlen 2004.

[4] S. = page in Zollikoner Seminare, p. = page in Zollikon Seminars.

[5] GW = Freud Gesammelte Werke, SE = Freud Standard Edition.

[6] Professor Condrau objected to me that this was not a castration, because it was a ‘sex-change’ operation. However, Boss himself referred to it as a ‘castration’, both in Psyche (4.7: 399) and in the cited footnote (S. 303) in Zollikoner Seminare.

[7] CW = Jung Collected Works.


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Anthony Stadlen practises in London as a Daseinsanalyst (existential-phenomenological psychoanalytic psychotherapist) with individuals, couples and families. He taught and supervised for many years at several London institutes, but now does so only privately. Since 1977, with the support of the Nuffield Foundation, he has researched the paradigmatic case studies of Freud, Layard, Fordham, Boss, Laing, Esterson, and others. He is a former Research Fellow of the Freud Museum, London. Since 1996, he has conducted the Inner Circle Seminars, an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. He is an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Regent’s College School of Psychotherapy and Counselling. He received the 2003 Thomas S. Szasz award for outstanding services to the cause of civil liberties (professional category). Correspondence to:

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