Who Needs Translations: the Difficulties of Assimilating a Foreign-Language Tradition (On the Example of the Ukrainian Translation of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason)
Keywords:translation, terminology, interpretation, argumentation, Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, philosophical education
This article offers a critical review of the Ukrainian translation of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason. Translations of classical works should serve a twofold function. They do not only facilitate the adoption of the terminology within the academic community but should first and foremost allow those unacquainted with the language of the original to engage with a foreign philosophical tradition meaningfully. The translation of a philosophical text has to preserve terminological rigidity and strictly follow the letter of the original while simultaneously being a product of interpretation and, to a certain extent, a paraphrase, the result of cooperation between the author and the translator. Decent knowledge of the original language does not suffice to successfully deal with the outdated vocabulary and the peculiarities of authorial language use, as many of the crucial translation decisions cannot be justified without understanding the inner logic of the argument. However, my detailed analysis of terminological patterns and Ukrainian renderings of complex and ambiguous syntactic constructions proves that none of these tasks were achieved here. Unfortunately, despite the efforts, the quality of this translation does not correspond to the standards of consistency and does not reflect the letter and spirit of Kant’s original due to numerous mistakes, misreadings, and distortions. Neither the impressive list of translator’s notes nor the occasional practice of giving German equivalents in the brackets is of any help to the reader in understanding Kane’s practical philosophy unless they already possess sufficient knowledge of the German language. This translation, therefore, cannot be used as teaching material at universities and stands in the way of a wider reception of Kant’s philosophy and productive public discussions.
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