sublime purpose

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NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
After reading the California enginner's explanation, I breathed a sigh of relief: "So it was not a terrorist attack. A tragic mistake. A criminal act with a sublime purpose."

The question of this thread is whether "sublime purpose" is proper in English in this context. It is the first time that I use this phrase and it is my translation from Chinese to English. But Google Ngram Viewer does show it is well used in English:

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But I am not clear in what circumstances has the phrase "sublime purpose" been used.

**********************
California engineer ran train 'off the end of rail tracks' in attempted attack on USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, DOJ says
Jordan Culver
USA TODAY
Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro was charged Wednesday with one count of train wrecking after the Tuesday incident, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. Moreno told police he believed the Mercy had "an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover," according to the DOJ.

Source: USAToday Apr.2, 2020
California engineer ran train 'off the end of rail tracks' in attempted attack on USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, DOJ says
 
  • MrMuselk

    Senior Member
    English - South East England
    Although it’s a good sentence, I wouldn’t use it in this example. I would use “a hidden purpose”.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    "Hidden" sounds omenous so it doesn't appear to be proper here because the man thought he was defending the US government by thwarting the ship's action of taking over the federal power.

    The question of this thread remains.
     

    MrMuselk

    Senior Member
    English - South East England
    Let’s just say “sublime” isn’t the best for this text. I would make it slightly longer and say “a criminal with a purpose deeper than destruction. (But this sounds like I pulled it from “The Twilight Zone” :eek: )
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    You have given some background sources about the incident, but have not told us the source of the sentence containing "sublime purpose".
    I don't think "sublime" means anything like hidden or ominous, but higher. The guy's primary objective intention was not to destroy, but to achieve the higher purpose of raising public awareness of something hidden and ominous that he imagined was going on.
     

    MrMuselk

    Senior Member
    English - South East England
    Yes, I only have the problem of it sounding too high and mighty for me.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    The guy's primary objective intention was not to destroy, but to achieve the higher purpose of raising public awareness of something hidden and ominous that he imagined was going on.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    The word "sublime" may sound too old-fashioned to be used today.

    Alternative: A low act with a high end.

    The act is a mistake or a crime so it is low.
    But its aim is high: To defend America or the Federal government.

    I am not sure it works in English as well (because "high end" may be misleading.)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't see how the intentions of a deranged engine-driver could possibly be described as "sublime" or "high". He might not have been a terrorist, but he appears to be a crazy conspiracy theorist, and thus equally dangerous.
    "The whole world is watching. I had to. People don't know what's going on here. Now they will."
    To defend America or the Federal government.
    Certainly not. He's a conspiracy theorist. He wants to defend America from the Federal government.
     

    MrMuselk

    Senior Member
    English - South East England
    I don't see how the intentions of a deranged engine-driver could possibly be described as "sublime" or "high". He might not have been a terrorist, but he appears to be a crazy conspiracy theorist, and thus equally dangerous.

    Certainly not. He's a conspiracy theorist. He wants to defend America from the Federal government.
    So the example I quoted of “hidden” could be used? Or if not, maybe “twisted vision” could be used: “A criminal act committed through a twisted vision”? (Isn’t that how a lot of lawyers speak :D )
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    He didn't have a hidden purpose. He was trying to wreck the ship because of his delusion and was, it seems, perfectly open about his motive. Yes, I think you could say he had a twisted vision of reality. :thumbsup:
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    In his delusion, he thought that his action was for a sublime purpose.

    It is a rhetorical device to compare "despicable act" with "decent purpose." In such device, you can't use "hidden/twisted", because it would destroy the effect of rhetoric.
     

    MrMuselk

    Senior Member
    English - South East England
    I disagree. Though your argument has a good point of view, only he thought it had a sublime purpose. To everyone else, including us, his vision is twisted.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    You wrote
    After reading the California enginner's explanation, I breathed a sigh of relief: "So it was not a terrorist attack. A tragic mistake. A criminal act with a sublime purpose."
    Your interpretation of the event seems very strange to me. It wasn't a tragic mistake and there was nothing sublime about his purpose. He deliberately attempted to crash a railway locomotive into a hospital ship because he had delusional beliefs about government control. I see no valid basis for using the word "sublime" in any description of the event.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    An engineer is usually well educated.
    Why would he act in a way like that of a terrorist? Because he worried about "a government takeover." This concern, though unjustified in healthy minds, is itself fundamentally different with that of a terrorist, who means seeding terror. This man didn't mean to seed terror. That is the key in understanding the rhetoric.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Your reasoning seems very strange to me. What has education to do with terrorism? In any case, an American engineer who crashes a train is an engine driver in BE. I've spoken to several, and very fine chaps they were, but I wouldn't think of them as being "well educated".

    I don't think this engineer was a terrorist, but that's beside the point. Your "rhetoric" seems to be saying "Oh, that's OK. He wasn't a terrorist, he was only a nutcase who tried to cause a few million dollars' worth of damage, without worrying how many people he might kill." Your understanding of "sublime" seems weird.
     

    MrMuselk

    Senior Member
    English - South East England
    Oh, that's OK. He wasn't a terrorist, he was only a nutcase who tried to cause a few million dollars' worth of damage, without worrying how many people he might kill.
    Definitely not a terrorist :D I do agree that he wasn’t one, but his actions were crazed, due to his vision of government control being twisted.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    Well. What I got here is "Don't use the word sublime lightly." :)

    Leave it to describe wise and sincere people.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    After reading the California enginner's explanation, I breathed a sigh of relief: "So it was not a terrorist attack. A tragic mistake. A criminal act with a sublime purpose."

    The question of this thread is whether "sublime purpose" is proper in English in this context. It is the first time that I use this phrase and it is my translation from Chinese to English. But Google Ngram Viewer does show it is well used in English:

    View attachment 39877

    But I am not clear in what circumstances has the phrase "sublime purpose" been used.

    **********************
    California engineer ran train 'off the end of rail tracks' in attempted attack on USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, DOJ says
    Jordan Culver
    USA TODAY
    Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro was charged Wednesday with one count of train wrecking after the Tuesday incident, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. Moreno told police he believed the Mercy had "an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover," according to the DOJ.

    Source: USAToday Apr.2, 2020
    California engineer ran train 'off the end of rail tracks' in attempted attack on USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, DOJ says
    If he had been successful and killed people or damaged Navy property this would be a terrorist act.

    Obviously all "terrorists" or saboteurs or assassins or whatever they are called in a given time and place have a rationale for what they are doing, both the ideological reason and the efficacy of the act. Sometimes they develop and share this belief with a more or less large group of people, and sometimes they develop it all on their own.

    The USA does tend to generate lone wolves who come up with idiosyncratic conspiracy theories that sometimes lead to violence. Over the past 20 years since there has been more tendency to charge them under laws about "terrorism" or "terroristic threats" that were created since 9-11. These charges have even been laid in cases that don't have overt political aspects, like mass shootings in schools and workplaces.

    In other words there is no clear demarcation between a "terrorist" and a deluded conspiracy theorist in either law or psychology. It's a continuum.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I've looked over the thread several times and, as far as I can see, no one has connected "sublime" to "religious" which seems to be the obvious connection to me. To me, he's saying no one has done it as part of a religous jihad or because various groups of people are sinful. In the US, there are many who commonly attribute natural disasters and diseases to purposeful divine intervention.
     
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