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Lost in Translation?

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

Translating sacred scriptures is not only a praxis that is crucial for the fruitful, i.e. non-distorted and unbiased dialogue between different religious traditions, but also raises some fundamental theoretical questions when it comes to translating the sacred texts of the religious other or understanding her ideas correctly. This paper focuses in particular on the question what a hermeneutic understanding of the religious other and her sacred scriptures presupposes and, more importantly, what this implies for the dialogue between various religious and secular traditions. In order to answer this question the second section opposes a contextualist and a hermeneutic view on translation and understanding, as exemplified by the philosophies of Richard Rorty and Jürgen Habermas respectively. I will argue that the contextualist view leads to an impasse, since it reduces intercultural understanding and dialogue to assimilating the other in the light of one’s own standards. Habermas’s hermeneutic view on translating the sacred texts of other religions raises a fundamental problem too, since it presupposes that translation and understanding the religious other take place in a homogeneous universe of discourse. On the basis of these negative results I explore, in the third section, Paul Ricoeur’s views on the problems of translation. He shows that translation can only aim at a supposed equivalence between the original text and its translation, not founded on a demonstrable identity of meaning. Moreover, this view is not only paradigmatic for translation in the narrow sense, but also for a hermeneutic understanding of the religious other. This leads to the idea of linguistic hospitality, which can also serve as a model for interreligious dialogue.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComparative Philosophy and Culture
StateAccepted/In press - 17 Apr 2017

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