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What do we translate when we translate?

Jorge Martínez


This paper deals with the problem of translation from various perspectives. The first of them refers to a possible theological origin of the need for translation. Translation became necessary because languages were confused by the gods, according to a tradition older than the Biblical account. Behind the religious accounts there are also ethical problems related to coexistence between men. A second perspective relates to the art of translation itself. Some representative theories are examined in this regard, from St. Jeremy to Luther. Finally I try to answer the question “what do we translate when we translate”? For that, my main reference is the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset. Is it true that translation is ultimately impossible, strictly speaking? I end with a nuanced response to Ortega’s challenge.


Translation; Babel; St Jeremy; Aquinas; Luther; Ortega y Gasset

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