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Is James Frederick Ferrier More-Likely-Than-Not the Author of Jean Paul?

The earliest known instance of "epistemology" recognized by the Oxford dictionary originated in an article entitled “Jean Paul,” traceable to the periodical English Review, Volume 7, issue 14, June 1847, pp. 276-313. It is doubtful that the Jean Paul author's name can ever be made certain. In such a case, authorship claims at best can hope for “more-likely-than-not” as their measure. The reader is provided the following evidence to consider whether Ferrier achieves that measure.

In 1853 James Frederick Ferrier published his Institutes of Metaphysic. Beginning in his introduction the word "epistemology" is assigned primary significance: the starting point for all reasoned philosophy. In the Institutes epistemology's basic definition is the "Theory of Knowing," but in that work, the word's etymology is never explored. Institutes appears to be the second occurrence of the word in literature, containing nearly 100 instances.

Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825) (in Ferrier's day commonly and herein called Jean Paul) was a German author/humorist. The English Review article can be variously described. It is an introduction for those unfamiliar with Jean Paul. It is also a critique and polemic directed toward the then current English translations, faulting both the accuracy of translation and translators' subverting the essence of Jean Paul's authorship.

Regarding our interest (epistemology's parentage) the unnamed author/translator of Jean Paul jousts not with other translators but with the reader. On page 296 the Jean Paul author herself (himself?) translates an excerpt from Jean Paul's Clavis Fichtiana. A footnote provides the actual German word, the neologism, the etymology, and perhaps a glimpse inside the author of Jean Paul. The text reads thus:

Here I was unable to keep my feet any longer in the water, but paced to and fro, barefooted and dripping. 'Come for once,' said I, 'make a rough estimate of thy creations—space—time (as far down as the 18th century)—whatever exists in both,—the world's—whatever is on them—the three kingdoms of nature,—the beggarly kingdoms of royalty,—the kingdom of truth,—the kingdom of the reviewers;—and last, not least, all the libraries! And consequently, the few volumes too which Fichte has written: first, because I must produce or suppose him before he can dip his pen; for it depends entirely upon my moral politeness whether I shall concede him any existence; and secondly because even if I do concede it, we can neither of us, being both anti-influxionists, ever listen to our respective 'I's', but we must both invent what each read's of the other, he is my Clavis, and I his sheets. Therefore, I call the epistemology ^9 unhesitatingly my work, or Leibgeberianism, supposing even that Fichte did exist and entertained similar thoughts; in that case he would only act the part of Newton with his fluxions, and I that of Leibnitz with the differential calculus, two great men like ourselves. Even as there is a like number of philosophical messiahs, Kant and Fichte; and the Jews also reckoned two messiahs, one, the son of Joseph, and the other, the son of David."Clavis Fichtiana, s.W. , t. xxvii. pp. 41, 42.

Footnote ^9 reads thus:

The title of one of the principal works of Fichte is, “Wissenschaftslehre,” which, after the analogy of technology, τεχνολογία, we render epistemology.

Wissenschaftslehre was Fichte's own special neologism. In translating it, our unnamed author neologizes an "English" equivalent: epistemology. One can find Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre methodology described as the "Science of science." In this vein, Jean Paul's author/translator reveals additional familiarities: some intimacy with the writings of Fichte, some proficiency with Greek & how English words have come to be assembled from Greek roots by means of analogy:

τέχνη [techne]: ἐπιστήμη [episteme] :: Art : Science
i.e. in Greek techne is to episteme as in English Art is to Science

and (without apology for bastardized Greek) these set up the footnote writer's ratios thus:

τεχνολογία [technology]: ἐπιστημολογία [epistemology] :: Science of Art : Science of Science
i.e. in English technology is to epistemology as Science-of-Art is to Science-of-Science
and in German Wissenschaftslehre is to Lehre der Wissenschaft as in English epistemology is to Science-of-Science

Within the entire article (Jean Paul), this footnote is the only use of Greek characters. The pseudo-Greek word is the unique offspring of this author's German-to-English translation.

An instance of Ferrier's using this method to create a different neologism is not discovered. However, the parallel (but reversed) method of word origin is recognizable in Ferrier. He employed it to decrypt a pseudo-Greek neologism of Coleridge. Ferrier asserted that a German word-invention was reverse-engineered to claim originality and to hide plagiarism. On page 296 in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 47(293) (1840, March), in Ferrier's The Plagiarisms of S. T. Coleridge, we find this passage:

We now pass on to the opening of Chap. X. B. L. [Chapter 10 of Biographia Literaria, S. T. Coleridge], p. 157. It commences in italics thus—the introductory words being put into the mouth of an imaginary reader: "Esemplastic!—the word is not in Johnson, nor have I met with it elsewhere!" "Neither have I," rejoins the author, Coleridge; "I constructed it myself from the Greek words, "εις ἑν πλαττειν, i.e. to shape into one." To this we, taking up the cause and character of the imaginary reader, reply—"We beg your pardon, sir; but you did nothing of the sort—you met with it in Schelling's Darlegung, p. 61. You there found the word In-eins-bildung—"a shaping into one"—which Schelling or some other German had literally formed from the Greek, εις ἑν πλαττειν, and you merely translated this word back into Greek, (a very easy and obvious thing to do,) and then you coined the Greek words into English, merely altering them from a noun into an adjective." The word is likewise to be met with in Schelling's Vorlesungen, p. 313. Such, we will lay our life upon it, is the history of Coleridge's neology in the instance of the word "esemplastic." Readers are generally passive enough mortals in the hands of writers; but an author who ventures upon questionable freaks like this, must lay his account with sometimes catching a Tartar among them.

Passing now from the explicit reference to epistemology and the mechanics of neology, let us consider the evidence from the methods and style used by Jean Paul's author. The second purpose alleged was critique and polemic assessment of the appreciation and translation of German literature. Three selections are provided for evidence from Jean Paul:

Page 292-293: This brief specimen will be sufficient to show how difficult, nay, next to impossible, it is to translate Jean Paul well, and how easy to mangle him. The fact is, that even Mr. Carlyle, whose translations are on the whole admirable, was obliged to take great liberties occasionally with the original, and has not unfrequently lost some of the more recondite allusions in which the writings of Jean Paul abound. It is, indeed, no disparagement, even to a first-rate German scholar, to say, that he is not qualified to translate that author; for among his own countrymen there are but few capable of appreciating all his beauties, and following him through the boundless variety and the vast expanse of that world of thought in which he moves with such astounding ease and agility. His mind resembles a complicated prismatic apparatus in which the rays of light, and the colours into which they resolve themselves, are perpetually scattered, variously reflected, and gathered up again into one focus; or better, it is like a kaleidoscope, which at every turn and shake produces a new combination, and presents to the eye, as if by mere chance, an endless variety of the most regular and beautiful designs.
Page 302: As regards the merit of the performance by which the American editor of Jean Paul's Life has attempted to transplant this interesting tale upon the soil of English literature, we are bound to warn our readers, that if they wish to steer clear of the lofty genius and the poetic beauties of our author, they cannot do better than make use of this translation, which turns all his bright poetry into dull prose much more effectually than it does his German into English. We do not underrate the difficulties which a translator of Jean Paul has to cope with; but making every allowance for these, and for the inevitable inferiority of the copy as compared with the original, we cannot admit that the translation before us comes up even to the most moderate requirements which the reading public has a right to make upon a work of this nature: The poetic beauties and the keen wit of Jean Paul are evidently lost upon this translator; and through an exceedingly imperfect knowledge of the German language, apparently of its very accidence, even the grammatical sense is not always faithfully given.
Page 303: We have marked in italics the numerous mistranslations and perversions of this short passage, as far as the case admits of it; and we now ask our readers to compare them with the correct translation which we have given above, and those who know German, with the original.

Ferrier is the recognized author of Poetical Translations of Faust in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 47(292), (1840, February). pp. 223-240. The reader can compare the previous passages from 'Jean Paul to these following from Poetical Translations of Faust:

Page 223: It is only of those portions of Faust that are executed in rhyme that we are now speaking, or that we intend to speak; for, when the translation employ blank verse, their work is frequently praiseworthy, and that of Dr Anster, in particular, appears deserving of considerable commendation. But the original "Faust" is written in rhyme, and in our opinion, cannot be translated into any other form of language without its true spirit entirely evaporating. In blank verse the difficulties are altogether evaded—the pith and dramatic point both of the dialogues and soliloquies are lost—the clear, hard, and well-defined outlines of the original are thawed down into a comparatively watery dilution, and melt away like icebergs that have drifted into the latitude of summer seas.
Page 228: We must now turn to the translations before us. If tried by the principles we have been contending for, we think that there is hardly a page in any one of them that could for a moment stand—so barbarous and often so ludicrous are the stratagems they play off upon language, and also upon thought, for the sake of hitching in their rhymes. Perhaps we have been uttering hard sayings—perhaps it may be thought that a poetical translation of any work upon the terms we propose, is altogether an impossible achievement. Perhaps it may be; but if it is, then we think it better that there should be no poetical translations, than that they should be obtained at the sacrifice of the conditions we have stated; for, if purchased at this price, they can never be any thing but burdens and encumbrances upon the literature of the country which imports them. To make amends, however, for our strictness on this point, and by way of encouraging future translators of "Faust," or any similar work, we may add, that we are inclined to accord to them much greater latitude in translating than they are generally supposed entitled to exercise.
Page 236-237: This translation gets over the ground like a wounded tortoise. After reading it, we think it would have been impossible for words to have represented more faintly and feebly the fretful fire, that, in the original passage, leaks out in living jets from Faust's bosom;—his sense of labour thrown away—his indignation—his irony—and his despair. It contains all the vices of language we were contending against at the beginning of this article, and which may be enumerated in a very few words, when we say that no man in Faust's situation would naturally speak so. If the words printed in italics, in the third and fourth lines, were left out, the sense would be as well, if not better, given. "Here am I—boast and wonder of the school—Magister, Doctor." This is very far from depicting the bitter irony with which Faust is here contemplating his magisterial and doctorial honours. Mr. Anster is a " doctor" himself—an LL.D., and therefore, perhaps, he could hardly have been expected to enter completely, or at least con amore, into the spirit of Faust's cruel sarcasm.

As previously mentioned, pending some heretofore undiscovered index, Jean Paul's author cannot be determined beyond doubt. I submit the following tree-of-possibilities from which the reader can choose which she finds more-likely-than-not.

I. Ferrier (more-likely-than-not) did author Jean Paul.
A. Ferrier is the sole originator of the epistemology as a neologism in Jean Paul and used it without hesitation in his Institutes.
II. Someone other than Ferrier (more-likely-than-not) did author Jean Paul.
A. The author of Jean Paul learned of the use of "epistemology," approached Ferrier, and worked out an arrangement to make no public outcry and no one ever discovered it.
B. The author of Jean Paul never challenged Ferrier's use of epistemology, perhaps having died prior or having become demented or merely ignorant of Ferrier's writings. (Want of polemic spirit was not considered plausible.)
1. Ferrier remained unaware that the word "epistemology" had been previously created. He innocently created it de novo and without knowledge of the other author's etymology and usage.
i. No reader of the Institutes became aware of the previous usage or none apprised Ferrier of it.
ii. Others did become aware of the unacknowledged previous usage.
a. Without informing another soul, each independently chose NOT to accuse plagiarism or to share this finding with others.
b. Even after having shared knowledge and having considered public accusation, all were dissuaded and took the secret to the grave.
2. Ferrier was aware of Jean Paul, "epistemology," its etymology, etc.
i. Ferrier consciously and successfully concealed his knowledge and no one was ever the wiser.
ii. Ferrier revealed the plagiarism to someone, but no further public notice was ever made.

Klarm768 (talk) 12:46, 23 December 2018 (UTC)