Baltic accent

2023 Vol. 14 №3

Back to the list Download the article

Non-translation and translation in Heidegger, Losev, and Ortega y Gasset



The article examines the ideas of Heidegger, Losev, and Ortega y Gasset regarding the possibility and necessity of translating philosophical texts. The concept of non-translation is an acknowledgment of the impossibility of adequately reproducing a philosophical text in another language while preserving its integrity. Particularly interesting for comparison are the concepts and practices of translation/non-translation found in works written during the same period (1920—1940s), which reveal numerous points of contact. All three philosophers reject conventional translation, proposing instead to consider ordinary words as philosophical terms. Despite the fact that such an approach may make the text appear contradictory to familiar norms, the philosophers insist on the necessity of violating convention. The opposition of translation vs non-translation is related to the multilingual nature of the text, as well as to the problem of language hierarchy and the attitude towards translating others' and one's own texts. Losev and Heidegger employ the technique of retrospective translation, which involves etymologizing or contextualizing texts that are older than the translated text. Etymologization (alongside commentary) is seen as a way to transfer ideas into a different cultural system, and Ortega y Gasset refers to humans as “etymological animals”. In Losev's interpretive translation, foreign translations or translations into other languages are viewed as interpretations and become objects of study. While Heidegger repeatedly criticizes the understanding of language as communication, and Ortega y Gasset takes a fundamentally anti-communicative position, Losev, on the contrary, emphasizes communication. Losev and Heidegger operate with the concept of clarity: the former consistently strives for maximum clarity by using apophatic techniques to eliminate irrelevant interpretations of meanings, but clarity is more of a propaedeutic task; the latter does not aim for clarity but utilizes the technique of infinite clarification. Both approaches raise the question of whether the criterion of scientificity is applicable to the translation of philosophical texts.


Azarova, N. M., 2010. Yazyk filosofii i yazyk poezii — dvizhenie navstrechu (gramma­ti­ka, leksika, tekst) [The language of philosophy and the language of poetry — a mo­ve­ment towards]. Moscow (in Russ.).

Azarova, N. M., 2021. Du Fu’s poetry and strategies of modern translation of poetry. In: Du Fu. Proekt Natalii Azarovoi [Du Fu. Natalia Azarova’s project]. Moscow (in Russ.).

Benjamin, W., 2000. The task of a translator (1923). In: W. Benjamin, ed. Ozareniya [Insights]. Moscow, pp. 46—57 (in Russ.).

Bibikhin, V. V., 2016. Aleksei Fedorovich Losev. Sergey Sergeevich Averintsev. Mos­cow (in Russ.).

De Gennaro, I., 2000. Heidegger on Translation — Translating Heidegger. Phä­no­me­nologische Forschungen, 5 (1), pp. 3—22.

Fokin, S. M., 2011. Translation as a failure of Russian philosophy: Shestov, Bakh­tin, Podoroga… Pushkin. Logos, 5—6 (84), pp. 212—236 (in Russ.).

Groth, M., 2017. Translating Heidegger. Toronto.

Heidegger, M., 1950a. Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes (1935/36). In: M. Heideg­ger, ed. Holzwege. Frankfurt a/M, pp. 1—74.

Heidegger, M., 1950b. Der Spruch des Anaximander (1946). In: M. Heidegger, ed. Hol­zwege. Frankfurt a/M, pp. 321—373.

Heidegger, M., 1976. Einleitung zu «Was ist Metaphysik». In: M. Heidegger, ed. Gesa­mtausgabe. I. Abteilung: Veröffentlichte Schriften 1914—1970. Vol. 9. Wegmarken. Frankfurt a/M.

Heidegger, M., 1984. Hölderlins Hymne «Der Ister». In: M. Heidegger, ed. Gesam­tausgabe. II: Vorlesungen 1923—1944. Vol. 53. Frankfurt a/M.

Losev, A. F., 1999. Samoe samo [Selfish selfhood]. Moscow (in Russ.).

Maly, K., 2000. Translating Heidegger’s Works into English: The History and the Possibility. Heidegger Studies, 16. Being-historical Thinking and Fundamental Onto­lo­gy: Greek Tradition in and beyond Modern Physics, pp. 115—138.

Moore, M. A., 2016. Heidegger’s Attentiveness to Language: A Question of Translation and «Original Contents». Annandale-on-Hudson.

Ortega Arjonilla, E., 1998. El legado de Ortega y Gasset a la teoría de la traduc­ción en España. In: La traducción en torno al 98. Madrid, pp. 101—116.

Ortega y Gasset, J., 1952. Prologo. In: Ibn Ḥazm, ed. El collar de la paloma. Tratado sobre el amor y los amantes. Madrid.

Ortega y Gasset, J., 2016. El hombre y la gente. Madrid.