Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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4.3 Procedures

1. Identification procedure

A preliminary list of subject headings relating to some aspect of human development or its synonyms was established for the 1976 edition. This list has been used and extended during the course of several systematic library and literature searches, by which an initial bibliography was built up (see Section HY). Summaries of various ranges of human development concepts and modes of awareness, in the form of books or articles, were located in this way and were used to build up files on individual concepts. The information finally present in each file was then used to establish the individual concept entries. Further information has been obtained for each new edition, permitting the creation of new entries or the improvement of existing descriptions.

2. Sources, precedents and parallels

There are relatively few efforts to produce systematic descriptions either of human development concepts or of modes of awareness. Those that exist tend to be quite specific in focus or oriented to a particular school of thought or tradition. There are of course a large number of books, connected with each tradition or discipline, which contain such information to different degrees. The sources used, and related works, are cited in the bibliography (Section HY).

3. Translations

(a) Non-European languages: Since the intent has been to bring together material from a wide range of cultures, there is necessarily a major difficulty associated with translation. The obvious difficulties of technical translation between European languages are compounded when using translations from non-European languages. These have been confronted by many authors who have made available materials, especially from Oriental traditions. No attempt has been made to use source material not already translated into English.

(b) Subject matter: There is however a further difficulty in the translation process which is specifically due to the subject matter. Commentators frequently stress the clarity of the original text in explaining subtleties that do not readily lend themselves to expression in English. This is particularly the case with Sanskrit and Pali. With regard to Pali, a language reserved for the Buddha's teaching, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, translator of the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification, 1979) by Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa, states: "This fact, coupled with the richness and integrity of the subject itself, gives it a singular limpidness and depth in its early form, as in a string quartet or the clear ocean, which attains in the style of the Suttas to an exquisite and unrivalled beauty unreflectable by any rendering. Traces seem to linger even in the intricate formalism preferred by the commentators. This translation presents many formidable problems, mainly either epistemological and psychological, or else linguistic, they relate either to what ideas and things are being discussed, or else to the manipulation of dictionary meanings of words used in discussion."

(c) Subtle experiences: The same translator comments on the special difficulty of technical translation of mental experience: "Again even such generally recognized private experiences as those referred to by the words 'consciousness' or 'pain' seem too obvious to introspection for uncertainty to arise (communication to fail), if they are given variant symbols. Here the English translator can forsake the Pali allotment of synonyms and indulge a liking for 'elegant variation', if he has it, without fear of muddle. But mind is fluid, as it were...and its analysis needs a different and strict treatment. In the Suttas and still more in the Abhidhamma, charting by analysis and definition of pin-pointed mental states is carried far into unfamiliar waters. It was already recognized then that this is no more a solid landscape of 'things' to be pointed to when variation has resulted in vagueness. As an instance of disregard of this fact: a great scholar with impeccable historical and philological judgement... has in a single work rendered the cattaro satipatthana (here represented by 'Four Foundations of Mindfulness') by 'Four Inceptions of Deliberation', 'Fourfold Setting Up of Mindfulness', 'Fourfold Setting Up of Starting', 'Four Applications of Mindfulness', and other variants. The foreword to the Dictionary of the Pali Text Society observes 'No one needs now to use the one English word "desire" as a translation of sixteen distinct Pali words, no one of which means precisely desire'"

(d) Patterns of associations: He continues: "So far only the difficulty of isolating, symbolizing and describing individual mental states has been touched on. But here the whole mental structure with its temporal-dynamic process is dealt with too. Identified mental as well as material states (none of which can arise independently) must be recognizable with their associations when encountered in new circumstances: for here arises the central question of thought-association and its manipulation. That is tacitly recognized in the Pali. If disregarded in the English rendering the tenuous structure with its inferences and negations -- the flexible pattern of thought-associations -- can no longer be communicated or followed, because the pattern of speech no longer reflects it, and whatever may be communicated is only fragmentary and perhaps deceptive. Renderings of words have to be distinguished, too, from renderings of words used to explain those words....One is handling instead of pictures of isolated ideas, or even groups of ideas, a whole coherent chart system."