This paper applies Arendtian reflections to fundamental aspects of translation. We begin by considering linguistic diversity in connection with Arendt’s notion of human plurality and inquiring what that means for translation. As each person exists only as one of many, each language exists only as one of many languages. As human plurality necessitates mutual understanding among people, linguistic diversity necessitates translation. We go on to explain the relationship between a text and its translation through the concepts of ‘appearance’ and doxa (opinion). If the existence of the world is contingent on plural individuals and their doxa, a text exists fully through its different translations, or appearances of the text via the doxa of different translators. Finally, we analyze the nature of translational practice in terms of ‘labor’, ‘work’ and ‘action’. We argue that the task of the translator should not remain at the level of labor, which is driven solely by the need for survival and self-preservation, nor at the level of work, which serves instrumental purposes; we propose instead that translating should culminate in action, with a keen awareness of others and the good of the entire community.
Action, Appearance, Human plurality, Linguistic diversity, Translation