Publication details [#8721]

Lessay, Franck. 1998. De la traduction philosophique au discours scientifique transculturel: le cas de Hobbes [From philosophical translation to transcultural scientific discourse: the Hobbes case]. In Bensimon, Paul and Didier Coupaye, eds. Traduire la culture [Translating culture]. Special issue of Palimpsestes 11: 53–69.
Publication type
Article in Special issue
Publication language


The translator of Thucydides, Aristotle, Homer and probably his own treatise Leviathan (from English into Latin), Hobbes devoted many remarks to the problems of translation. These have been little studied. Yet, they are worthy of attention in two important respects: taken together, they form an original literary doctrine; by their philosophical significance, they are related to central issues in Hobbes's thought. In the course of his demonstration that the greatest catastrophes in the history of metaphysics were due to mistranslations, Hobbes provides a new approach to the cultural status of European languages and to the political implications of their mutual relations. He reinterprets the philosophical tradition in the light of an ideal scientifically-based language whose rationality would make it immune against all possible ambiguities and misconstructions and would open the way to infallible translations. Thereby, he anticipates a utopia which was to be developed by the Enlightenment: that of a universal form of speech intelligible in all languages.
Source : Based on abstract in journal