Current trends in philosophy and translation

Authored by: Roland Végső

The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Philosophy

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138933552
eBook ISBN: 9781315678481
Adobe ISBN:


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The chapter examines what first might appear to be a central contradiction of philosophy today: while contemporary philosophy has turned against the heritage of the so-called ‘linguistic turn’ of the 20th century and, thus, questions the absolute centrality of language, the category of translation has nevertheless remained a central concern for it as an ontological problem. The chapter examines the works of Alain Badiou, Michel Callon, Bruno Latour, Levi Bryant, and Barbara Cassin to draw some of the most important consequences of this state of affairs. It starts with a brief overview of Badiou’s turn to mathematics as an emblematic gesture of the rejection of the linguistic turn. As a second step, the chapter examines the methodology of the ‘sociology of translation’ as it was developed by actor-network-theory. The third section turns to object-oriented ontology in order to explore how the idea of a ‘flat ontology’ is dependent on a specific definition of translation. In its fourth section, the chapter examines Barbara Cassin’s critique of the discourse of ontology in the name of a ‘consistent relativism’ whose most salient example is the practice of translation itself. In its conclusion, the chapter argues that today translation occupies in philosophical discourse the position of a limit in relation to ontology. In the case of Badiou, ontology limits the function of translation (since mathematics as ontology tends towards the elimination of translation); for Cassin, translation limits the scope of classic ontology (as translation is responsible for introducing a new kind of multiplicity to ontology). For Latour and Bryant, ontology is translation and, thus, translation ceases to be an essentially linguistic problem as it is tied to the more general problem of relationality.

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