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Antoine Berman’s Philosophical Reflections on Language and Translation: The Possibility of Translating without Platonism

Filozofia, 2011, roč. 66, č. 4, s. 336-346.
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The paper surveys the problem of language and translation in Antoine Berman’s pioneering achievements. This French philosopher of translation was deeply influenced not only by Schleiermacher, who affirmed the unity of thought and expression, but also by Benjamin, who drew attention to the formalism of language. In Berman’s view the essence of language lies in signifiers and letters. He criticized the Platonic view of language and translation which endows non-sensual, mental, and universal elements, with a higher ontological status. Thus Berman proposed a modern theory of translation without Platonism. Meanings can be realized through and within letters not only in the source language, but also in the target language. In this sense, Berman’s philosophy of translation clearly reflects “the achievements of modern semiotics” (P. Ricœur). The paper criticizes the conception of translation as trapped within the logic of identity, which ignores the differences between, and the multiplicity of, languages as a result of a deep-rooted drive to obtain a universal meaning. The paper shows that Berman’s philosophy reflects and accepts this multiplicity allowing thereby the logic of difference/otherness to flourish in translation.

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