Found in Translation
September 5, 2013 8:40 PM Subscribe
posted by whyareyouatriangle (43 comments total)
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Though it is common to lament the shortcomings of reading an important work in any language other than the original and of the “impossibility” of translation, I am convinced that works of philosophy (or literature for that matter — are they different?) in fact gain far more than they lose in translation
At various points in history, one language or another — Latin, Persian, Arabic — was the lingua franca of philosophical thinking. Now it is English. And for all we know it might again turn around and become Chinese.
Works of philosophy — and their readers — gain in translation not just because their authors begin to breathe in a new language but because the text signals a world alien to its initial composition. Above all they gain because these authors and their texts have to face a new audience. Plato and Aristotle have had a life in Arabic and Persian entirely alien to the colonial codification of “Western philosophy” — and the only effective way to make the foreign echoes of that idea familiar is to make the familiar tropes of “Western philosophy” foreign.