Article: Domenico Jervolino, Towards a Philosophy of Translation Inspired by a Phenomenological Hermeneutics

The Future of Phenomenology. Towards a Philosophy of Translation Inspired by a Phenomenological Hermeneutics

by Domenico Jervolino (Translated by Angelo Bottone)

Within the methodological perspective where I place myself, there is no gift of the phenomenon except in the gift of language, nor any gift of language outside the plurality of, or better said, the diversity of languages. The diversity of languages constitutes the presuppositions of the work of translation. Language, languages, translation therefore enter into the very heart of the constitution of sense.
The word “gift” – in its most general meaning, taken from ordinary language – is suitable to be used in at least three meanings in our discourse: the first with respect to phenomena or, if you prefer, to life; secondly with respect to language, where phenomena manifest themselves as capable of being said; and thirdly with respect to the plurality of languages, where language itself becomes real.
Language is a gift because we find ourselves alive, open to the appearance of the world. It is a gift because phenomena appear capable of being said, in that they are already said and can be expressed in a different way. It is a gift because they appear in their capacity to be said in many languages we can understand; they show themselves in their possibility, even in their effectiveness, which we can only very partially achieve, starting from our own language, which was given to us for free.
I believe we can talk of a ‘gift’ in all three of these cases, just as we can say that life is a gift. This note can be further specified and deepened – it implies in all forms, even in the most ordinary use of the term, the notions of gratuity, of passivity, of receptivity.
If the giving of phenomena can never disregard language, this does not mean one should close oneself to the characteristics and peculiarity of every language; it means realising that language expresses and that all languages, even if different, have the power to translate one into the other. This is therefore not a pure phenomenology but a hermeneutical phenomenology, a linguistic phenomenology that interprets the gift and the giving. These three forms of giving – life, language and languages – refer one to the other and sustain themselves reciprocally.
It is important to stress that the third form presupposes and clarifies the former two: the gift of life (which is the essential openness to the world as phenomena, as it appears) and the gift of language as a logos, thanks to which we are living beings with the capacity of speech. In the gift of the mother tongue these two aspects (to have a world and to have the ability of describing it) converge, but our being within a world which is common to all speaking beings is also implicit, thanks to the fact that every different ‘tongue’ belongs to the universe of language and thanks to the translatability, in principle, of all languages.
Here are topics regarding the linguistic and anthropological problem of translation within the context of an open philosophical debate: language as an inescapable characteristic of the finite and bodily condition of man, the constitution of sense in the phenomenon-language relationship, the tension between universality and finitude that comes out of this constitutive duality of what is human, and, finally, translation as a moment in which it is possible to dissipate that tension and as a paradigm of the different forms of interaction and communication among people.

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