Vol. 40 No. 2 (2020): Philosophy of Translation. An Interdisciplinary Approach

What do we translate when we translate?

Jorge Martínez
Universidad Católica San Pablo

Published 2020-12-19


  • Translation,
  • Babel,
  • St Jeremy,
  • Aquinas,
  • Luther,
  • Ortega y Gasset
  • ...More

How to Cite

Martínez, J. (2020). What do we translate when we translate?. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 40(2), 34–47. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v40i2.103


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.