Wittgenstein

Authored by: Silvia Panizza

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:

10.4324/9781315678481-5

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Abstract

Wittgenstein is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophers of language; his insights into how language works can be applied to translation. This chapter is an overview of some ways of doing so, drawing on recent studies in Wittgenstein and translation. The focus is on the practice of translation rather than translation theory. I introduce Wittgenstein and explain some controversies around his method, particularly on the possibility of having a theory of language. Wittgenstein’s method, which takes pragmatic aspects of language to be of paramount importance, is discussed in relation to the ways in which translation can benefit from a clear focus on these aspects. Four key concepts are then discussed from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, his later work: language-games; forms of life; aspect-seeing; and the surveyable representation. The first two are particularly crucial to Wittgenstein’s view of language and can help in the tasks of reading texts for translation and of writing texts in translation. Language-games are the different contexts in which we use language, with particular aims and rules which give the words their specific meaning. Forms of life tend to be broader than language games, and can be described as those special human concerns and practices within which the use of language makes sense. Rather than postulating a corresponding entity for each word, which the translator needs to find, a Wittgensteinian approach to translation suggests that we first need to understand which language-games texts are playing, and within what kinds of forms of life they fit. The task of translation is to recreate similar contexts and effects, rather than identifying an absolute referent. The chapter concludes with suggestions about how to evaluate different translations by appealing to Wittgenstein’s conception of language.

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