The Untranslatable Word? Reflections on Ereignis

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41 (3-4):407-425 (2014)


According to Heidegger, his key word Ereignis “can no more be translated” than “guiding words” in other languages, such as logos and dao. This essay presents a few reflections on the sense of Ereignis in Heidegger's thought and on the problem of translation. I distinguish three phases in Heidegger's use of the word Ereignis and draw on Paul Ricoeur and John Sallis to establish a view of translation that lies between the extremes of perfect translation and complete untranslatability. I argue that while perfect translation is impossible, imperfect translations—illuminating shifts from one context or language to another—are both possible and necessary, even when it comes to the word Ereignis. This position is compatible with Heidegger's view that encounter is made possible by distance.

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Richard Polt
Xavier University (Cincinnati)

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