Pure translation in Hegel’s Phenomenology

Di Michael Marder

In: Hegel and/in/on Translation XLIX , No. 1-2 ( 2020 )

Sezione Saggi / Articles


In this essay, I take up what in the section on reason in his Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel calls «pure translation» (rein Übersetzen) or «a pure form of translation» (die reine Form des Übersetzens). Both syntagms address the way an individual becomes actual by means of activity, meant to translate inner inclinations, tendencies, abilities, or talents into things that would be discernible in the world. The context, within which I consider these references, is shaped by the conceptual force field of Wirklichkeit (which I translate as energy-actuality) in Hegel’s philosophical project as a whole. Pure translation would signal, then, a passage to actuality, a self-actualizing or self-energizing movement of individuality, in the course of which one’s being is made phenomenal as a doing and what is done through it. The ‘purity’ of such a translation is, nonetheless, dialectically translated into the highest impurity and, indeed, a perversion. The possibilities of mistranslation and contamination crop up not as unfortunate and contingent deviations from the straight path leading from the inner world of individuality to an outer reality; they are part and parcel of the pure form of translation itself.