Philosophy and Practice in Translational Hermeneutics

2018

Philosophy and Practice in Translational Hermeneutics

Simon Glynn
Pages 213-234

Experience, Understanding, and the Translational Transformation of Reality

The success of linguistic communication in general, and translation in particular, is dependent upon the veracity of our understanding of the meaning of concepts signified in or by a language or languages. This raises the question as to how such understanding may be accomplished and ensured. And while Platonists and their ilk rely upon the transcendental intuition of supposedly absolute concepts, purportedly inscribed in their souls, those skeptical of such metaphysics have tended to attempt to derive the meaning of the concepts signified by language ostensively from observations of the supposedly “Real” world. However, in this essay, I argue that this is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least being that, as Husserl, following Hume, has noted, even the existence, much less the nature, of a (quasi-Noumenal) “Real” world, outside or transcending our experiences of phenomenal “Appearances,” is no more empirically verifiable than is Plato’s transcendental realm. Nor may understanding of (the meaning of ) the concepts signified by the linguistic communications of others be derived from these appearances, since my understanding of how things appear to others presupposes my understanding of the language they must employ to communicate this to me. Furthermore, and contra Husserl, as Hermeneutic Phenomenologists such as Heidegger recognized, the very appearances from which we may seek to drive our concepts are always already mediated by our conceptions or preconceptions. All of this being so, then as we shall perhaps not be surprised to see, the (semantic meaning of ) concepts signified by language are, as de Saussure has argued, derived from the syntactic relations which delineate them. Consequently, as Derrida has shown, they change over time (or diachronically) as such relations change. Unable therefore to establish the veracity of individuals’ understanding of concepts communicated either within a single language, or between languages, by appealing outside language to an independent criterion of arbitration, we must instead rely upon the coherence of linguistic articulation and communication; a coherence which, although a necessary condition of ensuring the correspondence of our understanding with that of others, can never be sufficient to do so. However, confidence in our understanding increases with the specificity and number of communications achieved without the occurrence of incoherence.