The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 12, 2001

Intercultural Philosophy

Barry Smith
Pages 73-82

On Forms of Communication In Philosophy

In previous work, I have drawn attention to certain systematic differences among philosophical traditions as regards to the literary forms that are prevalent in each. In this paper, however, I focus on the commentary form. I raise the question of why the use of commentaries abounds in most traditions except those transmitted in the English language and suggest that problems of translation are central to this issue. I argue that the appearance of commentaries in a philosophical tradition is a criterion of such untranslatability that emerges in a broader cultural, economic, political, and religious context. Features of the relation between language and forms of communication in the history of philosophy are here explicated, concentrating especially on the German case.