Department of Philosophy


Wittgenstein In / On Translation

Norwegian - Brazilian SPIRE - worskshop



Monday, 26 June (Bjørnefjorden Gjestetun)

10:00-11:30: Arley Moreno (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas): Epistemology of use


My aim is to explore new aspects of some Wittgensteinian concepts in order to point out some pragmatic internal conditions for the creation of norms for linguistic meaning. Firstly, I propose to distinguish two aspects in the concept of use (Gebrauch); on one hand, the application of words (Anwendung) – which was effectively explored by Wittgenstein – and, on the other hand, the construction of signs. I would like to explore the second one, in order to show some elementary techniques, or tools, that may lead to the creation of rules, or norms, for establishing the very primitive and general relation of meaning, i.e., the symbolic addressing. Secondly, the concept of aspect. According to Wittgenstein, aspects are nuances of the central conceptual meaning that may be perceived when one is invited, and accepts, to make comparisons with other objects and situations where the same concept can be applied.  I would like to emphasise the pragmatic dimension of that concept and to explore it, on my own, by investigating the role of the very elementary techniques that are in play when one establishes empirical associations between fragments of our experience – the aspects – and their symbolic expressions – the signs.  There lies the growth of symbolic norms of meaning, the criteria one creates in order to understand the application of a sign. In other words, there lies the conditions for the passage from the domain of empirical elements to that of symbolic addressing – or more precisely, the conditions for the symbolic assimilation of the empirical elements by means of the norms, i.e., the rules of meaning. Finally, the Wittgensteinian concept of Context (Umgebung, Zusammenhang). That is a Fregean idea inherited by Wittgenstein´s thought – broadly expanded during the last period of his philosophical activity, conserving nevertheless the same Fregean original theoretical function of being an antidote against the empiricism and the psychologism. From my point of view, the pragmatic function of that concept is to allow the disambiguation of the norms of meaning, by providing sufficient criteria to decide on the application of the word.


11:30-13:00: Cristiane Gottschalk (Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo): A broader sense of the concept of translation inspired by Wittgenstein: from the classroom to intercultural issues


From a Wittgensteinian perspective, I intend to present a broader sense of the concept of translation that might be applied to clarify problems of conveying senses, such as the ones occurring in the relationship between teacher and student (although both of them supposedly speak the same language), or the ones that defy the anthropologists, when they face cultures very different from ours, which do not have some of our fundamental concepts. In both cases, some of the problems of comprehension are often seen as a matter of the existence of words with no correspondence at all to the ones in the “foreign” language. I will argue that the experience of Wittgenstein as an elementary teacher in very poor villages in Austria after the First World War, particularly during the elaboration of an orthographic dictionary with his students; and afterwards, his criticism to Frazer’s interpretation of ancient cultures (presented by the British anthropologist in The Golden Bough), bring us some crucial elements to understand the passage of the Wittgenstein of Tractatus to his new concept of language, now seen by him as having a multiplicity of functions, in addition to a merely descriptive function, expressing a correspondence between propositions and facts. For example, his concern with the normative function of some artefacts (present not only in the classroom, but also in all different cultures), which will be seen by our philosopher in his later work, together with the grammatical propositions, as norms of descriptions, i.e., conditions for the constitution of sense. I conclude that, when we see the conveyance of senses as a translation matter between normative aspects of each context, it not only prevents a scientistic interpretation of a distant culture, but also enables us to clarify most of the misunderstandings in a classroom.


14:00-15:30: Paulo Oliveira (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, and Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo): Philosophy of language and translation


For nearly 15 years now, I’ve been trying to set up bridges between Wittgensteinian scholarship and Translation Studies (TS), the tasks in both fields being quite different. In TS, a main task is to show that a Wittgensteinian approach is not a mere variation of Derridean deconstruction or other kinds of relativism, but rather a very solid alternative to the dichotomy essentialism vs. relativism. In Philosophy (also in the case of Wittgensteinian scholarship), one of the main tasks, up to now, is to point at the existence of TS as an autonomous field of investigation where the ages old question of equivalence has lost much of its alleged centrality. Departing from the fact that translating itself is a phenomenon of language (use), I argue that the conception of language is logically prior to any theory of translation we can put up. So, taking this into account is a prerequisite for such a theory to be coherent, i.e., to avoid conceptual confusion. To support this reasoning, I’ll first sketch a brief summary of TS in the last decades and extract from this summary some points where Wittgenstein’s late philosophy can help to dissolve conceptual confusion. I also propose that one must give away the idea of translation as referring to the (linguistic) system and, instead, approach the phenomenon from the point of view of action – as favored by Wittgenstein. In this itinerary, I’ll point out some convergences between contemporary TS and the conception of language from the late Wittgenstein, such as Gideon Toury’s translation norms and the Wittgensteinian distinction between normative and descriptive use. Last but not least, along the way I’ll also highlight some connections of my own epistemology of translating with Moreno’s epistemology of use, to suggest that a reflection on the very basic level of the construction of meaning can have very strong implications for our understanding of what translation actually amounts to.


15:30-17:00: João José de Almeida (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas): Can we translate the character of a text?


In this lecture I will initially present an excerpt translated by Brian McGuinness from MS 122, pp. 88r-88v, as a motive for a critical consideration of one of the most appreciated concepts among Wittgensteinian translators: the physiognomy of a text. The excerpt from the MS 122 is a codified observation where Wittgenstein briefly considers the character of all great art as a piece which always has the primitive drives of mankind as its ground-bass – something which was missing in his own work in architecture. McGuinness, commenting on Wittgenstein’s writing style, proposes his translation in order that the reader could see the character of Wittgenstein’s texts, which is, according to his view, “asceticism as an ornament”. By putting an alternative translation right beside McGuinness’ translation, I will discuss the Portuguese translation of the “Remarks on Frazer’s  the  Golden Bough” (2011), the new Portuguese translation of the “Philosophical Investigations” (to appear), and the proposal to a Portuguese translation of the “Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics” (work in progress), as a kind of that alternative vision to a supposed Wittgenstein’s writing style. The purpose of such a comparison is to ask about the adequacy of using the concept of physiognomy as a guideline in translating Wittgenstein.

Coffee break

17:30-19:00: Natascha Gruver (Universität Wien, Wien, and University of California, Berkeley) On SKYPE: Wittgenstein’s Lesemaschinen / Reading Machines - a performative exploration


In the evening travel to Bergen. Evening and dinner on our own.


Tuesday, 27 June (meeting room at Philosophy Department)

10:00-11:30: Marco Brusotti (Università del Salento, Lecce, and Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin): ‘You should like to say…’ -  Translating temptations

11:30-13:00: Nuno Venturinha (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa): Meaning and sense


14:00-15:30: Alois Pichler (Universitetet i Bergen): Wittgenstein’s distinction between acting and behaving


In my paper I will show that Wittgenstein’s texts, where relevant, consistently distinguish between acting and behaving; this goes also for Wittgenstein’s own translations of his texts, e.g. the German version of the Brown Book in MS 115. The distinction between acting and behaving gets however often blurred in translations of Wittgenstein’s works produced by others. One example is the translation of “gemeinsame menschliche Handlungsweise” from Philosophical Investigations (PI) §206. I will argue that the fact of human action (e.g. shopping, see PI §1) as distinguished from mere human behaviour (e.g. crying out in pain) is indeed central to Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and that his language games are foremost action games (see e.g. the list in PI §23 which are, with maybe one arguable exception, all actions), and that it is therefore important to consistently retain the distinction between acting and behaving also in translations of Wittgenstein.


15:30-17:00: Concluding discussion