Article: Claudia W. Ruitemberg, Distance and Defamiliarisation: Translation as Philosophical Method

Distance and Defamiliarisation: Translation as Philosophical Method

Department of Educational Studies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, 2125 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada.

In this article I posit translation as philosophical operation that disrupts commonsense meaning and understanding. By defamiliarising language, translation can arrest thinking about a text in a way that assumes the language is understood. In recent work I have grappled with the phrase 'ways of knowing', which, for linguistic and conceptual reasons, confuses discussions about epistemological diversity. I here expand this inquiry by considering languages in which more than one equivalent exists for the English verb 'to know'. French, for example, has both savoir and connaître, and German has wissen and kennen. This interlinguistic translation thus allows for a reconsideration of the inquiry into the phrase 'ways of knowing': do problems arise with 'ways of knowing-in-the sense-of connaître', or with 'ways of knowing-in-the-sense-of savoir', or both? Displacement is, more generally speaking, a method used by philosophers. Shifting the concept or phenomenon under consideration into a different context or discursive register allows one to defamiliarise it and see it in terms of something else. Through translation, whether interlinguistic or interdiscursive, philosophers ask what questions and understandings become possible when we see A in terms of B.


Article: Jonathan Rée, The Translation of Philosophy

Jonathan Rée

The Translation of Philosophy

New Literary History, Vol. 32, No. 2, Reexamining Critical Processing (Spring, 2001), pp. 223-257


Article: Lovisa Bergdahl, Lost in Translation: On the Untranslatable and its Ethical Implications for Religious Pluralism

Lost in Translation: On the Untranslatable and its Ethical Implications for Religious Pluralism
Lovisa Bergdahl

Journal of Philosophy of Education, Volume 43 Issue 1, Pages 31 - 44

In recent years, there have been reports about increased religious discrimination in schools. As a way of acknowledging the importance of religion and faith communities in the public sphere and to propose a solution to the exclusion of religious citizens, the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas suggests an act of translation for which both secular and religious citizens are mutually responsible. What gets lost in Habermas's translation, this paper argues, is the condition that makes translation both necessary and (im)possible. Drawing on Walter Benjamin's notion of the mysterious untranslatable and the task of the translator, the paper approaches translation as an ethical process involving risk, asymmetry and uncertainty. Not knowing where this risk will lead, the paper takes the ethical ambivalence at play in Jacques Derrida's notion of the untranslatable and explores this in relation to religious difference in education. It argues that the untranslatable needs to be acknowledged in terms of a respect for difference and a limit to narration, if students with religious convictions are not to be further violated in schools.


Review: François OST, Traduire. Défense et illustration du multilinguisme.

Le multilinguisme est un humanisme
par Leyla Dakhli

« La langue de l’Europe, a dit Umberto Eco, c’est la traduction ». Dans un essai aux résonances politiques, François Ost prend les armes pour la diversité des langues et leur irréductibilité. La traduction a lieu d’abord à l’intérieur d’une même langue, et doit s’affranchir du mythe de la langue unique.

Recensé : François OST, Traduire. Défense et illustration du multilinguisme, Fayard « Ouvertures », 2009. 421 p., 23 euros.

Le livre de François Ost, comme l’indique son titre, est une plaidoirie. Mais il ne s’agit pourtant pas d’un traité polémique contre le ‘tout anglais’ qui voudrait prendre la défense des langues minoritaires, comme on en a vu fleurir. C’est une réflexion approfondie sur la (les) langue (s) que notre monde devrait parler pour répondre à notre désir d’universel tout en se nourrissant de nos diversités. Ce paradigme de la traduction a une généalogie que François Ost retrace patiemment, presque pas à pas, de Babel à la question du Droit, des utopies langagières aux exemples d’États multilingues, de la réinvention de l’hébreu à la différence entre langues disparues et langues mortes.


Article: Rachel Weissbrod, Philosophy of translation meets translation studies

Philosophy of translation meets translation studies
Three Hebrew translations of Kipling's “If” in light of Paul Ricœur's “Third Text” and Gideon Toury's “Adequate Translation”

Author: Weissbrod, Rachel
Source: Target, Volume 21, Number 1, 2009 , pp. 58-73(16)
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company

Though there are no clear-cut boundaries between the philosophy of translation and translation studies, they are obviously not the same. They differ not only in how they address their subject matter but also in that they occupy different “niches” in the culture. In the terminology of Bourdieu, they partake in different, though possibly partly overlapping cultural fields. This article attempts to create a meeting place for two representatives of these disciplines: Paul Ricœur, a leading figure in French hermeneutics of the 20th century, and Gideon Toury, a prominent researcher in the field of translation studies. Ricœur's concept of the (non-existing) “third text” is compared with Toury's concept of “the adequate translation as a hypothetical construct”, which was proposed in the 1980s and negated in the 1990s; and Ricœur's view of translation as “equivalence without adequacy” is compared with Toury's stand on this issue. The possibility of working with both and reading each of them in light of the other is examined by applying their ideas to a test case — three Hebrew translations of Kipling's “If”. The underlying assumption is that establishing links between translation studies and the philosophy of translation can contribute to the understanding of the phenomenon, which is the subject matter of both.

Bien qu'il n'existe pas de frontières nettes entre la philosophie de la traduction et les études de traduction, les deux disciplines ne se recouvrent manifestement pas. Elles diffèrent non seulement par la façon d'aborder leur objet d'étude, mais également par le fait d'occuper des “niches” culturelles différentes. Selon la terminologie de Bourdieu, elles relèvent de champs culturels différents, qui se recoupent néanmoins en partie. Le présent article vise à créer un lieu de rencontre pour deux représentants de ces disciplines : Paul Ricœur, le pionnier de l'herméneutique française du XXe siècle, et Gideon Toury, chercheur éminent dans le domaine des études de traduction. Le concept du “tiers-texte” (inexistant) de Ricœur est comparé avec le concept de la “traduction adéquate en tant que construction hypothétique” de Toury, concept proposé dans les années 1980 et annulé dans les années 1990 ; ensuite, le point de vue de Ricœur sur la traduction comme “équivalence sans adéquation” sera confronté à celui de Toury. La possibilité de travailler avec les deux chercheurs et de lire l'un à la lumière de l'autre est vérifiée à partir d'un cas concret : trois traductions en hébreu de “If” de Kipling. L'hypothèse sous-jacente est que l'établissement de liens entre les études de traduction et la philosophie de la traduction peut contribuer à une meilleure compréhension de l'objet d'étude partagé par les deux chercheurs.


Book: Miles Groth, Translating Heidegger

Miles Groth, Translating Heidegger

Despite the great influence of Martin Heidegger on the development of 20th-century philosophy, a complete understanding of his thought is difficult to achieve if one relies solely on English translations of his works. Since Gilbert Ryle misjudged his work in a 1929 review of Sein und Zeit Heidegger’s philosophy has remained an enigma to many scholars who cannot read the original German texts. Miles Groth addresses this important issue in this illuminating work.

The main cause of misunderstanding Heidegger, says Groth, is that translators have not achieved clarity about such fundamental words as Sein, Seiende, Dasein, and Existenz, an understanding of which is crucial to gaining access to Heidegger’s way of thought. Adding to the complexity of this problem is Heidegger’s own seminal interest in the philosophical implications of translation. A basic theme of his philosophy is that key words from the ancient Greek tradition were mistranslated, first into Latin and then into modern European languages, with the result that the thought of the Pre-Socratics and the classic Greek philosophers has been obscured for two millennia. Heidegger argued that these early mistranslations of fundamental Greek words launched Western philosophy in a direction it need never have taken.

Groth examines both the history of the first English translations of Heidegger’s works and Heidegger’s philosophy of translation, revealing that there is a coherent philosophy of translation in Heidegger’s texts. The book not only articulates the elements of this theory of translation chronologically and thematically, but also shows it at work in Heidegger’s meticulous and radical translation of Parmenides, Fragment VI, in What Is Called Thinking? Translating Heidegger concludes with a complete research bibliography of English translations of Heidegger.

This unique study makes an original contribution to Heidegger scholarship as well as the philosophy of language.

Book Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 314

ISBN: 978-1-59102-100-1
Shipping Weight: 2lbs

Miles Groth (Staten Island, NY) is chair of the psychology department, associate professor of psychology, and director of the honors program at Wagner College. Dr. Groth is also an existential psychoanalyst and the author of Preparatory Thinking in Heidegger’s Teaching and The Voice That Thinks: Heidegger Studies.

More details here.

Article: Nathaniel Goldberg, Triangulation, Untranslatability, and Reconciliation.

Nathaniel Goldberg (2009). Triangulation, Untranslatability, and Reconciliation. Philosophia 37 (2).
Donald Davidson used triangulation to do everything from explicate psychological and semantic externalism, to attack relativism and skepticism, to propose conditions necessary for thought and talk. At one point Davidson tried to bring order to these remarks by identifying three kinds of triangulation, each operative in a different situation. Here I take seriously Davidson’s talk of triangular situations and extend it. I start by describing Davidson’s situations. Next I establish the surprising result that considerations from one situation entail the possibility that at any one time one language is partially untranslatable into another. Because the possibility is time-indexed, it need not conflict with Davidson’s own argument against the possibility of untranslatability. I derive the result, not to indict Davidson, but to propose a new kind of triangulation, the reconciliation of untranslatability, which I investigate. Insofar as triangulation is central to Davidson’s views, getting a handle on his various triangular situations is key to getting a handle on his contributions to philosophy. Insofar as those contributions have enriched our understanding of how language, thought, and reality interrelate, extending Davidson’s model promises to extend our understanding too.

Article: Jim Josefson and Jonathan Bach, A Critique of Rawls's Hermeneutics as Translation.

Jim Josefson & Jonathan Bach (1997). A Critique of Rawls's Hermeneutics as Translation. Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (1).
Syracuse University, NY, USA This paper seeks to demonstrate that hermeneutics is a powerful conceptual tool for exploring the current trend towards theorizing justice as a conversation. Specifically we explore the work of John Rawls in order to describe the particular variety of hermeneu tics at work in both 'political liberalism' and 'justice as fairness' and to critique this hermeneutics from the perspective of the ontological hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Using the critique of Quinean pragmatism found in Joseph Rouse's epistemology, we draw a par allel between the 'hermeneutics as translation' in Quine and Rawls's public reason. This parallel, we argue, helps us better understand the features and the limitations of political liberalism, especially when Rawls's hermeneutics is contrasted with the possibility of a theory of justice inspired by Gadamer.

Call for papers: Translation of Philosophy / Philosophy of Translation

Call for papers: Panel at American Comparative Literature Conference (ALCA)
New Orleans. April 1-4 2010.
"Translation of Philosophy / Philosophy of Translation"
Seminar Organizer: Ben Van Wyke, Indiana U- Purdue U Indianapolis

For at least the past thirty years or so, questions of translation have been moving to the fore in philosophy. Far beyond traditional concerns that have focused merely on the accuracy of translated philosophical texts, translation is fast becoming one of the most fundamental tropes for the very workings of philosophy. According to Derrida, for example, whose work has played a profound role in making this connection explicit, “the origin of philosophy is translation or the thesis of translatability” (Ear of the Other 120). Not only has philosophy and comparative literature been paying increasing attention to translation, but certain areas of translation studies have also been inspired by philosophy, especially by many tenets of post-Nietzschean notions of language and their implications for this practice. However, philosophic ponderings on the trope of translation often ignore certain realities related to the actual practice. At the same time, although contemporary philosophy is gaining ground in translation studies, much of the discourse on translation still revolves around traditional ideas of transference and equivalence.

This panel welcomes papers that explore aspects of the intersection between translation (and translation studies) and philosophy, especially how these two areas can foster a productive exchange. What can philosophy learn from translation studies? How can philosophy be used to help us view and/or practice translation? If translation is at the origin of philosophy, can there be a philosophy of translation?

To submit an abstract follow this link: []. There is a link at the bottom of the page that takes you to the submission form.

For questions, please contact Ben Van Wyke at

Article: Andrew Haas, Gewalt and Metalēpsis: On Heidegger and the Greeks.

Andrew Haas
Gewalt and Metalēpsis: On Heidegger and the Greeks


Cet article cherche à interroger Heidegger en tant que traducteur. Nous montrons d’abord que le refus de traduire hypokeimenon par subiectum rend possible une onto-héno-chrono-phénoménologie de la choséité de la chose comme constance. Ensuite, nous démontrons que la tentative visant à penser la transformation de l’alētheia ne peut éviter la traduction et toutes ses violences. Enfin, nous faisons retour aux Grecs en vue de penser la traduction comme metalēpsis, de réinterpréter la traduction platonicienne des Idées comme choses, de repenser le noūs aristotélicien comme auto-traducteur, et de suggérer que l’origine de la pensée réside peut-être aussi dans la traduction.


This article seeks to interrogate Heidegger as translator. First we show that the refusal to translate hypokeimenon as subiectum, opens up the possibility of an onto-heno-chrono-phenomenology of the thingliness of the thing as constancy. Second we demonstrate that the attempt to think a transformation of alētheia cannot avoid translation and all its violences. Finally we return to the Greeks in order to think translation as metalēpsis, to reinterpret the Platonic translation of ideas as things, to rethink the Aristotelian noūs as self-translating, and to suggest that the origin of thinking may lie in translation as well.


Article: Nick Bostrom, Understanding Quine's thesis of indeterminacy

Nick Bostrom

Understanding Quine's thesis of indeterminacy

The state of the art as regards the thesis of indeterminacy of translation is as follows. Very much has been said about it, most of which is based on misunderstandings. No satisfactory formulation of the thesis has been presented. No good argument has been given in favour of the thesis. No good argument has been advanced against it.

In this paper, I attempt to clear up some of the misunderstandings, to provide a satisfactory formulation of the thesis in non-naturalistic terms, to demonstrate how a naturalistic substitute can be derived from this formulation, to refute the best know arguments for and against the thesis, and to show how it relates to the thesis of indeterminacy of reference, the theses of semantic and epistemic holism and to the thesis of underdetermination of theory by data. Finally I argue that there is an interesting sense in which the indeterminacy is a matter of degree, and express my opinion that this degree is probably not very high.