What if we translated it as “upheaval”?
UPDATE: Or maybe “upheaving” would be better. Here’s my explanation.
I have been reading Derrida lately and was reminded of his proposal to translate aufheben as relever, which was not the standard translation at the time. Accordingly, sometimes relever is translated into English as “sublate” — which is essentially a placeholder word that we’re just supposed to know means aufheben, with the two contradictory meanings Hegel intends (elevate/conserve and abolish).
Since “sublate” is not among the standard dictionary translations for aufheben (judging from the unabridged Oxford-Duden), I figure that it’s okay to seek a word that is not a standard dictionary translation.
Just judging from its apparent etymology, “sublate” attempts to combine the two meanings — “sub” being down, “-late” being something like carry or lift. (I suppose I could read a translator’s introduction or something, but this is, after all, a blog.) Okay, fine — but aufheben does not mean “under-lift.” Heben is “lift,” but auf- is more like “up” (not simply “up,” but definitely more like “up” than like “down” or “under”).
So, just from the sound of the German words, I thought of “upheaval” — and lo and behold, the German translation for “heave” is none other than heben! The actual German word for “upheaval” is Aufruhr (also the word for “uproar”), which obviously includes the desired auf-. Aufhebung means more exclusively things like “abolition” or “cancellation,” just as “upheaval” has negative connotations — but with the verb aufheben, the dominant connotation appears to be positive (“lifting,” “preserving,” etc.), though with negative connotations also. (Interestingly, the noun das Aufheben means “a big fuss.”)
With all this in mind, I propose the neologism “to upheave” as the philosophical translation of aufheben. For the substantive Aufhebung, “upheaval” would work, but “upheaving” might be better in that it emphasizes the weirdness — while retaining the natural connotations of the word “upheaval.” Such a translation would have the advantage of reflecting a more contemporary understanding of Hegel (even thought would not be totally approved by any official translation agency), with greater emphasis on the negative and the contingent, as opposed to the more traditional understanding encoded in “sublate” (“lifting” what is “below” to a higher level).