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.