The Problems of Translating Aristotle: Some Typical Unresolved Questions of Terminology and Philosophy


  • Valentin Kalan



Aristoteles, poetry, prose, translation, being, several meaning


Aristotle's scientific language of' philosophy includes "sublime words", (semna onomata) such as Being, Cosmos, Harmony, God, infinity, and so remains halfway between poetry and science. In Vico's view Aristotle's prose represents a completed transition from poetry to ordinary language, whereas Heidegger's theory of translating considers the basic Greek philosophical terms, such as to on and logos to be as untranslatable as high poetry.

Aristotle's language and terminology are a reflection of his philosophy. The foundation of his first philosophy is the experience that the term "being" (to on) has several senses (pollahos legetai) In order to engage in debate we must first be able to establish ill how many senses a given term can be used. Therefore some philosophical subjects are treated by Aristotle in the form of a philosophical dictionary, i.e. Book V of the Metaphysics. The rendering of many basic terms from Greek philosophy into modern languages entails a preliminary interpretation, as well as an inquiry into the terminological possibilities of the target language. In the case of Slovene some Greek terms lack translation equivalents while others have been translated with an overabundance of synonyms.


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