SLRP: LVIII. On Being (Part 1: 1 – 8a)

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Seneca,

This letter of yours we are breaking into several chunks.  Today’s bit is a ramping up, as it were, for the discussion at hand.  You discuss the linguistic and philosophical problems of translation.  Don’t worry, we haven’t figured it out either.

Learning another language is not learning how to translate words, quid pro quo, but rather learning to think with new tools.  I’ve seen the word ὄν (but usually in the plural), translated as “some things,” and “the things which are,” and more besides.  Your translation of “that which is” seems to be in a similar vein.

Language and philosophy naturally go hand in hand.  Where I suspect your letter will bend is a place I too have gone.  I started studying Koine Greek in this most recent October.  I want to be able to read the primary texts in their native tongue.

I do wonder, however, if as a non-native speaker with no current, living language community, will I always be outside looking in?  Even at my early stages, the problems presented by ὄν and οὐσία are not small.  We see the same issue again and again with words like τι (Something), σῶμα (Body), and and ὑποστάσεω (subsistence, grounding), to name a few.

I’m looking forward to rest of this letter, because the incorporeals and the language issue are both interesting to me.

Farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

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