Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

 

From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Fri Feb 27, 2004 4:21 am
Subject: Settling the "nichts weniger als" question


I promised a couple of days ago to consult an "expert" in order to resolve the "nichts weniger als" controversy (or confusion). The expert is my daughter, a translator (German-Spanish-English-Portuguese) and language teacher. She has a masters in Iberian culture and teaches at university level in Munich. She grew up in the U.S., Argentina, Switzerland and Germany. Her mother tongue is German (German mother). Obviously I have a lot of confidence in her. When asking her to translate the passage in question, I did not tell her who its author was nor anything else about it in order to avoid possible unconscious prejudice. (She is an ex-Waldi, what they call Waldorf students in Germany). She isn't an anthroposphist though, and has no reason to have guessed who the author was. I only told her that there might be a problem with "nichts weniger als". I asked her to translate into English or Spanish, but anticipated that she would do so in Spanish, because the passage isn't exactly simple and I know that she is more comfortable in Spanish than English. She replies as follows:

In einer eMail vom 25.02.2004 20:30:05 Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt franksmith:

„Es ist gewiss nicht zu leugnen, dass heute das Judentum noch immer als geschlossenes Ganzes auftritt und als solches in die Entwickelung unserer gegenwärtigen Zustände vielfach eingegriffen hat, und das in einer Weise, die den abendländischen Kulturideen nichts weniger als günstig war. Das Judentum als solches hat sich aber längst ausgelebt, hat keine Berechtigung innerhalb des modernen Völkerlebens, und dass es sich dennoch erhalten hat, ist ein Fehler der Weltgeschichte, dessen Folgen nicht ausbleiben konnten.“

No se puede negar que hoy en día el judaísmo sigue presentándose como una entidad cerrada, y como tal ha intervenido numerosas veces en el desarrollo que ha llevado a nuestro estado actual, de una forma que para las ideas culturales del occidente no eran sino favorables. Sin embargo, el judaísmo como tal ya ha perdido su legitimidad y su razón de ser dentro de la comunidad de pueblos moderna, y el hecho que a pesar de ello se ha mantenido es un error de la historia universal, cuyas consecuencias no podían dejar de presentarse.

This translation into Spanish is essentially what we have in English. She translates the phrase in question as: "...and in a way that for western cultural ideas has been no less than favorable.

She then goes on to say:

(Qué frasesitas! Yo tuve más problemas con "hat sich längst ausgelebt" y modernes Völkerleben", pero enfín. El "nichts weniger als ..." es una "doppelte Verneinung", subrayando positivamente la palabra "günstig", o sea quiere decir algo como "sehr günstig".)

"(What simple little phrases! I had more problems with "hat sich längt ausgelebt" and "modernes Völkerleben", but anyway. "nichts weniger als..." is a "double negation", positively underlining the word "favorable", that is, it means something like "most favorable".)"

This, for me at least, settles the question. Therefore auf wiedersehen "nichts weniger als".

Beatrice Smith

MA, Staatlich geprüfte Übersetzerin
für Deutsch und Spanisch
Sprachtrainerin

Frank

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:59 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi Frank,

thanks for your refreshingly level-headed posts on the translation question. You conclude:

This, for me at least, settles the question.

Not for me. The first several times I read the Steiner passage, I thought it said what your daughter thinks it says; in fact in my first draft translation I rendered it the same way. But I eventually realized my mistake, as Detlef has yet to do. I think your daugher might do the same, with just a little reflection. She says that "nichts weniger" is a double negation. This is half true, but when it functions as a phrase, "nichts weniger" is not a double negation, as you can easily see from the several variants of "Ich möchte nichts weniger" that we discussed earlier. In those situations, the phrase means exactly what I said it means, and the opposite of what your daughter apparently thinks it always means.

One possibly important methodological point: I agree that it was a good idea for you to withhold from your daughter the context of this quote, for purposes of your experiment. But as a general rule, ignorance of context is a hindrance, not a boon, to correct translation. And in this case I think the context is indeed significant.

I'd like to make the same recommendation to you that I made to other listmates a few days ago: read Ralf Sonnenberg's article. Not just for an illuminating perspective on this translation issue, but for a broader discussion of the themes I came here to discuss. It is by far the best treatment of Steiner's views on Jews that I have seen from an anthroposophist (which is, admittedly, not saying much), and it makes mincemeat out of that silly piece by Ravagli, Leist, and Bader that you put so much stock in. Here's the info again: Ralf Sonnenberg, " 'Keine Berechtigung innerhalb des modernen Völkerlebens': Judentum, Zionismus und Antisemitismus aus der Sicht Rudolf Steiners", Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung 12 (2003), pp. 185-209.

Peter

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Sat Feb 28, 2004 3:25 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

For best reading on your return Monday morning. You wrote:

Hi Frank,

thanks for your refreshingly level-headed posts on the translation question. You conclude:

This, for me at least, settles the question.

Not for me.

*I didn't expect that you'd be convinced. However, see below. I sent my daughter your objection.

The first several times I read the Steiner passage, I thought it said what your daughter thinks it says; in fact in my first draft translation I rendered it the same way. But I eventually realized my mistake, as Detlef has yet to do. I think your daugher might do the same, with just a little reflection. She says that "nichts weniger" is a double negation. This is half true, but when it functions as a phrase, "nichts weniger" is not a double negation, as you can easily see from the several variants of "Ich möchte nichts weniger" that we discussed earlier. In those situations, the phrase means exactly what I said it means, and the opposite of what your daughter apparently thinks it always means.

Querido Daddy, en ese caso el "aber" no haría sentido:

Das Judentum als solches hat sich aber längst ausgelebt

"Dear Daddy, in that case the "aber" (but) would make no sense."

This has been pointed out to you several times, Peter, but I guess you don't want to listen. Everyone wants to win an argument, but when it becomes senseless to insist, even on small points, one's whole attitude becomes questionable.

Frank

Beatrice Smith

MA, Staatlich geprüfte Übersetzerin
für Deutsch und Spanisch
Sprachtrainerin

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Sat Feb 28, 2004 3:52 pm
Subject: "nichts weniger als"

My daughter, 15 minutes later:

Hi Daddy,
dein Freund hat natürlich recht, dass es das auch heissen kann, was man vielleicht aus dem größeren Kontext erkennen könnte. Aber so, wie du es mir präsentiert hast, mit dem "aber..."-Satz danach, würde ich doch auf die doppelte Verneinung tippen. Hat schon mal jemand versucht, eine Séance zu machen und den Doktor selbst zu fragen?

Besitos de tu hijita Bibi

Your friend (!) is of course right in that it could also mean that, which one could perhaps recognize from the larger context. But from the way you presented it to me, with the "but..." sentence following, I would still bet on the double negation. Has anybody tried to make a séance and ask der Doktor himself?

Little kisses from your little daughter Bibi

And, 5 minutes after that:

In einer eMail vom 27.02.2004 15:44:23 Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt franksmith:

She isn't an anthroposphist though, and has no reason to have guessed who the author was

Lieber Daddy, das ist natürlich Bullshit, ich habe den Stil selbstverständlich gleich erkannt. Wenn nicht Rudi, dann Thomas Mann, und vom Thema her wars doch eher Rudi. Die restlich Beschreibung deiner "Expertin" hat mir gut gefallen! Besitos de Bibilein

Dear Daddy, that is of course bullshit. Obviously I recognized the style immediately. If not Rudi, then Thomas Mann, and according to the subject, it was rather Rudi. The rest of the description of your "expert" pleased me!

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From: golden3000997
Date: Sat Feb 28, 2004 5:42 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] "nichts weniger als"

Hey Frank!

What did you do to deserve such a cool, intelligent and funny daughter?

: ) Christine

Baby angel looks down at Frank and turns to her Guardian Angel and says, "Aw, I've just got to go down there and cheer that guy up!"

: D

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Sun Feb 29, 2004 5:21 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] "nichts weniger als"

Hey Frank!

What did you do to deserve such a cool, intelligent and funny daughter?

: ) Christine

Baby angel looks down at Frank and turns to her Guardian Angel and says, "Aw, I've just got to go down there and cheer that guy up!"

I've done nothing to deserve her - as far as I know. But I am cheered. Now all we have to do is cheer Peter up. Do you think it will work?

Frank

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From: at
Date: Mon Mar 1, 2004 6:58 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Peter Staudenmaier:

I'd like to make the same recommendation to you that I made to other listmates a few days ago: read Ralf Sonnenberg's article. Not just for an illuminating perspective on this translation issue, but for a broader discussion of the themes I came here to discuss. It is by far the best treatment of Steiner's views on Jews that I have seen from an anthroposophist (which is, admittedly, not saying much), and it makes mincemeat out of that silly piece by Ravagli, Leist, and Bader that you put so much stock in. Here's the info again: Ralf Sonnenberg, " 'Keine Berechtigung innerhalb des modernen Völkerlebens': Judentum, Zionismus und Antisemitismus aus der Sicht Rudolf Steiners", Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung 12 (2003), pp. 185-209.

Thanks for the recommendation. I've read both the article and the book. Personally I don't think that the academic level of the two are very far apart, so I have to wonder at your characterization of Sonnenbert's piece as "making mincemeat" of Ravagli, Leist, and Bader's book. It seems to fit a consistent pattern of praising highly any piece of work you agree with, while deprecating the academic credentials and intellectual abilities of those whose conclusions contradict your own. (For example, praising the scholarship of a writer like Peter Bierl while suggesting that Goodrick-Clarke has a bias towards Steiner.) Perhaps you could comment on how you feel Ravagli, Leist, and Bader's description of the context of Steiner's lectures to the workers of the Goetheanum does or does not alter your approach to an interpretation of select passages from the printed book.

Daniel Hindes

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Mon Mar 1, 2004 7:53 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] "nichts weniger als"

Hi Frank,

thanks for forwarding the correspondence with your daughter. Her reasoning about the "but" clause makes no sense to me. Steiner begins the previous sentence with a criticism of the Jews (namely, that they constitute a closed totality), not with a compliment. Thus according to your daughter's reading, the first sentence is internally contradictory, which hardly supports the notion that "but" signalled a transition from compliments to criticisms. By my reading, "but" signals a transition from particular to general, from specific criticisms of the Jews to denial of their very right to existence, as I explained last week. This is the only explanation offered so far that is consistent with the passage as a whole. I remain very interested in alternative explanations.

Peter

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 8:25 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] "nichts weniger als"

Hi, Peter, you wrote:

Hi Frank,

thanks for forwarding the correspondence with your daughter. Her reasoning about the "but" clause makes no sense to me. Steiner begins the previous sentence with a criticism of the Jews (namely, that they constitute a closed totality), not with a compliment. Thus according to your daughter's reading, the first sentence is internally contradictory, which hardly supports the notion that "but" signalled a transition from compliments to criticisms. By my reading, "but" signals a transition from particular to general, from specific criticisms of the Jews to denial of their very right to existence, as I explained last week. This is the only explanation offered so far that is consistent with the passage as a whole. I remain very interested in alternative explanations.


You're a hard nut to crack, even when common sense is the nutcracker. Let's analyze the paragraph again:

„Es ist gewiss nicht zu leugnen, dass heute das Judentum noch immer als geschlossenes Ganzes auftritt und als solches in die Entwickelung unserer gegenwärtigen Zustände vielfach eingegriffen hat, und das in einer Weise, die den abendländischen Kulturideen nichts weniger als günstig war. Das Judentum als solches hat sich aber längst ausgelebt, hat keine Berechtigung innerhalb des modernen Völkerlebens, und dass es sich dennoch erhalten hat, ist ein Fehler der Weltgeschichte, dessen Folgen nicht ausbleiben konnten.“

If we assume for a moment that the AT translation is correct, it reads:

“It cannot be denied that Jewry still today presents itself as a self-contained entity and as such has often intervened in the development of our present conditions in a way that was nothing less than favorable to Western cultural ideas. But Jewry as such has outlived itself and has no justification within the modern life of nations. The fact that it nevertheless has been preserved is a mistake of world history which could not fail to have consequences.”

If we assume that your version is correct, it would read:

“It cannot be denied that Jewry still today presents itself as a self-contained entity and as such has often intervened in the development of our present conditions in a way that was anything but favorable to Western cultural ideas. But Jewry as such has outlived itself and has no justification within the modern life of nations. The fact that it nevertheless has been preserved is a mistake of world history which could not fail to have consequences.”

The first sentence is not, as you maintain, self-contradictory. It is stating that this Jewish self-contained entity has often most favorable intervened in the development (or evolution) of our present conditions. BUT (however, notwithstanding this) Jewry, as such, has oultlived itself......

Your interpretation would mean that this Jewish self-containing entity's intervention was anything but favorable...BUT (however, notwithstanding this) Jewry, as such, has oultlived itself... "but" here makes no sense at all. He would have to have said. "Moreover..."

Frank

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Mon Mar 1, 2004 8:32 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi again Daniel, you wrote:

I've read both the article and the book. Personally I don't think that the academic level of the two are very far apart

I couldn't disagree more strongly. Ravagli et al routinely make the kind of blunders that nobody familar with the history of German antisemitism could possibly make.

It seems to fit a consistent pattern of praising highly any piece of work you agree with

But I obviously don't agree with Sonnenberg's work. I vigorously disagree with it. It is, however, historically informed, which Ravagli et al's is not.

while deprecating the academic credentials and intellectual abilities of those whose conclusions contradict your own.

I'm not big on either academic credentials or intellectual abilities. People with limited intellectual abilities and no academic credentials frequently make entirely reasonable and perfectly persuasive arguments, while people with impressive intellectual abilities and extensive academic credentials frequently make utterly spurious and threadbare arguments.

For example, praising the scholarship of a writer like Peter Bierl while suggesting that Goodrick-Clarke has a bias towards Steiner.

That was not at all a criticism of Goodrick-Clarke, who is an exemplary historian. There is nothing wrong with having a bias toward Steiner.

Perhaps you could comment on how you feel Ravagli, Leist, and Bader's description of the context of Steiner's lectures to the workers of the Goetheanum does or does not alter your approach to an interpretation of select passages from the printed book.

I think you're talking about the book published by Verlag Freies Geistesleben; I was talking about the other text by the same authors and with the same title (the subtitles differ) published by the Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen. The former focuses on racism, the latter on antisemitism. Anyway, I think that most of their general remarks about the lectures to the Goetheanum workers are either banal or beside the point. Sometimes their claims in this respect are silly; witness the hypothetical comparison to "a militant racist" on pp. 113-114 of the Freies Geistesleben book. Remarks like those suggest that these authors are innocent of any meaningful historical perspective on the development of racist thinking.

Peter

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 7:12 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi, Peter, hope you had a restful weekend.

Hi Frank,

thanks for your refreshingly level-headed posts on the translation question. You conclude:

This, for me at least, settles the question.

Not for me.

*I didn't expect it to.

The first several times I read the Steiner passage, I thought it said what your daughter thinks it says; in fact in my first draft translation I rendered it the same way. But I eventually realized my mistake, as Detlef has yet to do. I think your daugher might do the same, with just a little reflection. She says that "nichts weniger" is a double negation. This is half true, but when it functions as a phrase, "nichts weniger" is not a double negation, as you can easily see from the several variants of "Ich möchte nichts weniger" that we discussed earlier.

* The example you used several times was: Ich möchte nichts weniger, als Sie provozieren.

In those situations, the phrase means exactly what I said it means, and the opposite of what your daughter apparently thinks it always means.

*I asked another friend, A German woman who lives here in Argentina. She is a language teacher. She replied:

"Hola, Frank, a mi me parece que es así como dice Bibi, que la doble negación en este caso seguido por un adjetivo significa una afirmación, sehr günstig, y el ejemplo que pone este señor no es valido, porque sigue una frase subordinada con una intención "ich möchte nichts weniger, als sie zu provozieren" para mi es otra intención."

Hi, Frank, it seems to me that it is as Bibi says, that the double negation in this case followed by an adjective signifies an affirmation, very favorable, and the example given by this señor (PS) is not valid, because a subordinate phrase follows with an intention "ich möchte nichts weniger, als Sie zu provozieren" which is a different intention."

* You will note, btw, that it should be "zu" provozieren, unless your example is from gutter German. In any case, I didn't quite follow what she wrote, so I asked here to elaborate. She replied, in German this time:

Hola, Frank, ich versuche, es so klar wie möglich auszudrücken. Es ist ein Unterschied, ob ich sage "Ich möchte nichts weniger, als Sie zu provozieren", weil ich damit einen Wunsch, eine Haltung ausdrücke, anders gesagt, "Ich möchte Sie überhaupt nicht provozieren", wenn ich aber vor ein Adjektiv direkt setze "nichts weniger als", so wird aus dieser doppelten Verneinung das Gegenteil, also "sehr", also wird aus "nichts weniger als günstig" "sehr günstig". Ein anderes Beispiel "Er war nichts weniger als genial." "Er war sehr genial".
Ich hoffe, dass es so verständlich ist.
Grüsse, Claudia

Hi, Frank, I'll try to express it as clearly as possible. It is different if I say "Ich möchte nichts weniger, als Sie zu provozieren", because I am therewith expressing a desire, an attitude, in other words, "Ich möchte Sie überhaupt nicht provozieren" (I don't want to provoke you at all); but when I place "nichts weniger als" directly before an adjective (favorable), this double negation indicates the opposite, that is, "nichts weniger als günstig" "sehr günstig" (very favorable). Another example "Er war nichts weniger als genial." "Er war sehr genial." (He was very brilliant.)
Greetings, Claudia

*I hope that you are no less than (very) satisfied now, but I doubt it.

Frank

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 7:47 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Peter:

I think you're talking about the book published by Verlag Freies Geistesleben; I was talking about the other text by the same authors and with the same title (the subtitles differ) published by the Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen. The former focuses on racism, the latter on antisemitism. Anyway, I think that most of their general remarks about the lectures to the Goetheanum workers are either banal or beside the point. Sometimes their claims in this respect are silly; witness the hypothetical comparison to "a militant racist" on pp. 113-114 of the Freies Geistesleben book. Remarks like those suggest that these authors are innocent of any meaningful historical perspective on the development of racist thinking.

I disagree that their general remarks about the lectures to the Goetheanum workers are either banal or beside the point. I consider it necessary for anyone (ncluding yourself) interested in reading these lectures to know the circumstance and the audience in order to have an accurate picture. However, I agree that the part beginning at the bottom of pp. 113 contributes nothing to this understanding.

Frank

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 9:31 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi Frank, you forwarded further commentary on the disputed phrase:

"it seems to me that it is as Bibi says, that the double negation in this case followed by an adjective signifies an affirmation, very favorable, and the example given by this señor (PS) is not valid, because a subordinate phrase follows with an intention "ich möchte nichts weniger, als Sie zu provozieren" which is a different intention."

This is precisely what we disagree about. I think your friend has quite simply misconstrued the "intention" of the passage in question.

It is different if I say

Well, sure, if you've already decided what you think the phrase means in this instance, then any other reading will indeed be different.

but when I place "nichts weniger als" directly before an adjective (favorable), this double negation indicates the opposite

That is only sometimes true. What we are arguing over is whether it is true in this case.

You continue:

You're a hard nut to crack, even when common sense is the nutcracker.

If you think you are employing common sense here, then I am compelled to question your grasp of basic grammatical categories. This is not a dispute over common sense, it is a dispute over interpretation.

The first sentence is not, as you maintain, self-contradictory.

It is according to your preferred reading. There is no such thing as a "Jewish self-contained entity", as you termed it, and Steiner's positing of such an entity is a criticism of Jewry, not praise. If you think I otherwise, I once again recommend familiarizing yourself with the history of antisemitic thinking, within which this foolish notion of Jews as a "closed totality" played a major role.

Your interpretation would mean that this Jewish self-containing entity's intervention was anything but favorable...BUT (however, notwithstanding this)

No, that is not my reading. My reading is that Steiner is saying here 'but not only that, its very existence is blah blah blah'. Hence the wording "Jewry as such". I think your reading is incompatible with the text; it does not provide an adequate account of either the first or the second sentences, much less the relationship between them.

Peter

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 10:04 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Peter:

Hi Frank, you forwarded further commentary on the disputed phrase:

"it seems to me that it is as Bibi says, that the double negation in this case followed by an adjective signifies an affirmation, very favorable, and the example given by this señor (PS) is not valid, because a subordinate phrase follows with an intention "ich möchte nichts weniger, als Sie zu provozieren" which is a different intention."

This is precisely what we disagree about. I think your friend has quite simply misconstrued the "intention" of the passage in question.

It is different if I say

Well, sure, if you've already decided what you think the phrase means in this instance, then any other reading will indeed be different.

but when I place "nichts weniger als" directly before an adjective (favorable), this double negation indicates the opposite

That is only sometimes true. What we are arguing over is whether it is true in this case.

You continue:

You're a hard nut to crack, even when common sense is the nutcracker.

If you think you are employing common sense here, then I am compelled to question your grasp of basic grammatical categories. This is not a dispute over common sense, it is a dispute over interpretation.

The first sentence is not, as you maintain, self-contradictory.

It is according to your preferred reading. There is no such thing as a "Jewish self-contained entity", as you termed it, and Steiner's positing of such an entity is a criticism of Jewry, not praise. If you think I otherwise, I once again recommend familiarizing yourself with the history of antisemitic thinking, within which this foolish notion of Jews as a "closed totality" played a major role.

Your interpretation would mean that this Jewish self-containing entity's intervention was anything but favorable...BUT (however, notwithstanding this)

No, that is not my reading. My reading is that Steiner is saying here 'but not only that, its very existence is blah blah blah'. Hence the wording "Jewry as such". I think your reading is incompatible with the text; it does not provide an adequate account of either the first or the second sentences, much less the relationship between them.

Peter


And I think you've cut my post into so many bits to suit your purpose that it no longer makes sense. If you want to be serious, then show it.

Frank

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 6:52 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi Frank, you wrote:

And I think you've cut my post into so many bits to suit your purpose that it no longer makes sense. If you want to be serious, then show it.

I am indeed serious. How would you like me to show this to you? As far as I can tell, we agree that the disputed phrase has several possible meanings, and we disagree about which of those meanings applies in this specific context. I think that the reading you offer is untenable, and parts of it are flatly contradicted by the text itself. You haven't taken the whole of the first sentence into consideration, and you haven't given a sensible explanation of the relationship between the first and second sentences. According to your interpretation, Steiner begins by castigating the Jews for their supposed closedness, switches mid-sentence to praising them for their contributions to western culture, and then -- and only then -- marks yet another transition, from praise back to criticism, by using the word "but" halfway through the second sentence. This makes no sense. If that were how he meant "but", why didn't he write "but" between the two main clauses of the first sentence? And so forth. In contrast, I think that I have offered a reading that accounts for the passage as a whole and meaningfully relates the first sentence to the second. According to my reading, Steiner's argument flows logically, rather than flip-flopping back and forth, and culminates in characterizing the very existence of Jewry as a mistake. This is a considerably more plausible understanding of the passage as it appears within the full article. My reading does indeed depend on parsing "nichts weniger" as a phrase meaning "alles andere", which is one of the two possible meanings. That, it seems to me, is the heart of our disagreement.

Peter

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From: at
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 8:59 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Peter Staudenmaier:

I couldn't disagree more strongly. Ravagli et al routinely make the kind of blunders that nobody familar with the history of German antisemitism could possibly make.

Daniel:

Could you elaborate on this statement, and perhaps give a few examples?

Daniel:

For example, praising the scholarship of a writer like Peter Bierl while suggesting that Goodrick-Clarke has a bias towards Steiner.

Peter Staudenmaier:

That was not at all a criticism of Goodrick-Clarke, who is an exemplary historian. There is nothing wrong with having a bias toward Steiner.

Daniel:

How about Peter Bierl? I understand you find his work "excellent". Care to elaborate?

Daniel:

Perhaps you could comment on how you feel Ravagli, Leist, and Bader's description of the context of Steiner's lectures to the workers of the Goetheanum does or does not alter your approach to an interpretation of select passages from the printed book.

Peter Staudenmaier:

I think you're talking about the book published by Verlag Freies Geistesleben; I was talking about the other text by the same authors and with the same title (the subtitles differ) published by the Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen. The former focuses on racism, the latter on antisemitism. Anyway, I think that most of their general remarks about the lectures to the Goetheanum workers are either banal or beside the point. Sometimes their claims in this respect are silly; witness the hypothetical comparison to "a militant racist" on pp. 113-114 of the Freies Geistesleben book. Remarks like those suggest that these authors are innocent of any meaningful historical perspective on the development of racist thinking.

Daniel:

Well, what do you make of their claim that the text is in places inaccurate or incomplete?
Do you have a position on the whole "blacks are people too" context that Ravagli, Leist, and Bader offer?

Daniel Hindes

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Wed Mar 3, 2004 8:50 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi Daniel, you wrote:

Could you elaborate on this statement, and perhaps give a few examples?

Sure. The copy I have in front of me is the 2., erweiterte Auflage, Juni 2001 (the antisemitism study, not the racism book); I will cite page numbers from that edition. Throughout pages 16 to 21 they argue that Steiner represented "political liberalism" (p. 21) and therefore could not have been an antisemite. On p. 24 they discuss Steiner's "external life" and devote two paragraphs to his Jewish friends, the idea being that people who have Jewish friends cannot be antisemites. In the midst of this they say that Jacobowski could not possibly have been friends with Steiner if the latter had had the slightest tendencies toward antisemitism. On p. 30 we find the prize-winning sentence: "If he [Steiner] had had even the slightest critical reservations toward the Jewish element, he would have had to speak out against the integration and assimilation of Jewry." Every one of those claims is preposterous. All sorts of Liberals were antisemites. Lots of antisemites had Jewish friends. And the most prominent antisemites of the late 19th century explicitly endorsed assimilation. By this logic, Treitschke, Stoecker, Lagarde, Langbehn, Wagner, Vacher de Lapouge, etc etc were not antisemites.

How about Peter Bierl? I understand you find his work "excellent". Care to elaborate?

I do indeed find his work on anthroposophy excellent. He is a very talented journalist and put an enormous amount of research into his book, which does an unusually good job of exploring the neglected political contexts of early anthroposophy.

Well, what do you make of their claim that the text is in places inaccurate or incomplete?

They do not make this claim about the 1923 lecture on "Color and the Races of Humankind" (see p. 111 of the racism book). There are no missing parts of that text, according to the Gesamtausgabe edition.

Do you have a position on the whole "blacks are people too" context that Ravagli, Leist, and Bader offer?

I think that Steiner's bit about blacks-are-people-too expresses at worst a relatively mild form of racism. It is a trifle compared to the numerous other racist claims he makes in that lecture.

Peter

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Wed Mar 3, 2004 1:54 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi Frank, you wrote:

And I think you've cut my post into so many bits to suit your purpose that it no longer makes sense. If you want to be serious, then show it.

I am indeed serious. How would you like me to show this to you? As far as I can tell, we agree that the disputed phrase has several possible meanings, and we disagree about which of those meanings applies in this specific context.

Wrong. I thought that 100 posts ago. Then, in my posts written after the expert testimony on the meaning of the Steiner quote as well as your example trying to prove the contrary, I was quite definite in afirming that it has one meaning.

I think that the reading you offer is untenable, and parts of it are flatly contradicted by the text itself.

(sigh) I give up. Think what you like.

Frank

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From: at
Date: Wed Mar 3, 2004 3:11 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Peter,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. If I might follow up,

Daniel:

Well, what do you make of their claim that the text is in places inaccurate or incomplete?

Peter Staudenmaier:

They do not make this claim about the 1923 lecture on "Color and the Races of Humankind" (see p. 111 of the racism book). There are no missing parts of that text, according to the Gesamtausgabe edition.

Daniel:

That is a bit of an evasive answer. Do you feel that the claim that the text is in places inaccurate or incomplete has any validity? Anywhere?

They actually do make that claim in one place, where they speculate that the stenographer (who was sitting behind a screen) took down “verarbeitet” instead of “erarbeitet”. It is towards the end of part 5.1.3 in the discussion of the 1923 lecture on "Color and the Races of Humankind". It is true that the GA doesn't indicate any missing parts in the text.

Daniel:

Do you have a position on the whole "blacks are people too" context that Ravagli, Leist, and Bader offer?

Peter Staudenmaier:

I think that Steiner's bit about blacks-are-people-too expresses at worst a relatively mild form of racism. It is a trifle compared to the numerous other racist claims he makes in that lecture.

Daniel:

"At worst.." And at best? I am curious on your thoughts about Ravagli, Leist, and Bader's argument on this point. Do you or don't you buy the argument that Steiner was talking to a racist audience and trying to change their views towards greater tolerance of other races with this statement?

Daniel Hindes

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Wed Mar 3, 2004 10:53 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Settling the "nichts weniger als" question

Hi again Daniel,

Do you feel that the claim that the text is in places inaccurate or incomplete has any validity? Anywhere?

The text of what? There are all sorts of incomplete spots in the Gesamtausgabe, marked as such by the editors, not to mention a number of lectures that were not recorded by professional stenographers. The lecture we're talking about is not among them.

"I am curious on your thoughts about Ravagli, Leist, and Bader's argument on this point. Do you or don't you buy the argument that Steiner was talking to a racist audience and trying to change their views towards greater tolerance of other races with this statement?"

I think that crucial elements in that argument are purely speculative. We know very little about the racial views of the audience in question, and I reject Ravagli et al's general suggestion that these workers were somehow not up to the task of grasping Steiner's point unless he dumbed it down for them. As for the bit about tolerance, I think that is obvious from the text; Steiner was indeed trying to say, more or less, that black people are people too and should be perceived as such. This is not at all unambiguous evidence of anti-racist pedagogical intent, in my view; it could just as well indicate paternalistic racism.

Peter

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