Request for Ven. Thanissaro's translation of AN10.58 to be uploaded


Indeed, in your post that I quoted you first say that idioms do not happen constantly in language, and then you yourself make use of the phrase

‘…the use of both hitchen’s and the occam’s razors’

Which is a highly ideomatic phrase that has nothing to do with shaving equipment. In fact, to take it literally is to miss the point completely.

Basically, your own words of disagreement with Ven. Sujato’s was actually evidence in favor of his assertion that language is highly idiomatic. I was trying to point this out in a friendly but humourous way :slight_smile:


"'All phenomena are rooted in desire.[1]
"'All phenomena come into play through attention.
"'All phenomena have contact as their origination.
"'All phenomena have feeling as their meeting place.
"'All phenomena have concentration as their presiding state.
"'All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle.
"'All phenomena have discernment as their surpassing state.
"'All phenomena have release as their heartwood.
"'All phenomena gain their footing in the deathless.
"‘All phenomena have Unbinding as their final end.’ Mula Sutta: Rooted

This seems reasonable enough. I think the concept of phenomena or dhammas fit well in this context. However as you said the idea of Dhamma (including nibbana) doesn’t fit well here.


If i said that idioms do not occur in language you would be arguing against my position but now you are arguing against a straw-man argument.

It is a friendly discussion and if you can point out flaws in my reasoning i would appreciate it greatly.


The phrase ‘arguing against a straw-man argument’ is also highly idiomatic. There’s no men made of straw involved, so it can’t be taken literally, it only makes sense as an idiom for ‘misrepresenting an argument and then refuting it’.

It’s another example of how idiomatic phrases abound in natural language! :slight_smile:

Even in just the short exchange we’ve had in this thread, if we were to interpret one another overly literal, we would not be able to understand each other.

The idea that language is highly idiomatic and therefore often ambiguous, is actually quite uncontroversial. It’s why it’s so hard to get computers to make good translations. It’s why publishers can’t use google translate but have to hire expensive translators to get their books in other languages.

A funny example: a Norwegian website I saw a while ago asked people to ‘push our employees to know more about them’, obviously what they meant was ‘click on’ because you could click on the employee pictures to see their bios, but it gave the sense of asking site visitors to physically push or psychologically pressure the employees for knowledge :sweat_smile:


“Hitchen’s Razor” is a word which has a certain meaning and can’t be taken literally. However it is not the case that all words are of this nature.

Arguing that the word amatogadha ought to be translated as something other than a footing because language in general has terms which are not to be take literally is akin to saying “some animals bark therefore a penguin barks” or rather “some animals bark therefore a certain animal barks”; it may bark if it is a dog but it being a dog is not a given.

It is a fallacy.


Yes, and the relevant question is whether amatogadha should be taken literally or not.

Consider these examples:

  1. He used Hitchen’s razor to rid himself of his mustache
  2. He used Hitchen’s razor to rid himself of a bad argument
  3. He felt the sting of Hitchen’s razor

Context tells us whether we’re talking about an actual razor or not. The third phrase is actually ambiguous, it could mean he cut himself while shaving using a razor belonging to someone named Hitchen, or it could mean he had an emotional reaction to the use of Hitchen’s razor in a discussion with someone.

If one is faced with ambiguity, it’s easy to see that it would not be more correct to choose the literal reading (physical razor) over the idiomatic one (debate heuristic). In this case, you either choose the right one, or one that completely misses the mark.

The only way to know which one is right is to be a really good at English and also have a bunch of implicit knowledge that allows you to understand the context, and thus which reading is correct.

I personally have no idea what the correct way to read amatogadha is, but I know that Ven. Sujato is a Pali expert and has extensive knowledge of the historical context the Pali suttas were composed in. So when he says amatogadha should not be taken literally in a certain context – since he is speaking from his experience as an expert and I am not an expert – I tend to accept that.

Maybe in time I will become an expert as well, and then if I have an expert’s reason to disagree, I will do so :slight_smile:


Fair enough. I hope you become both a Pali expert and realize for yourself the ultimate Dhamma (if you haven’t already done so) so that you are able to discern what is rightly and wrongly spoken independent of language barriers.