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ole Koksvik

" More important, by exclusive focus on making Bennett-approved content transparent, we actually reduce the potential for learning that comes from struggling with difficult philosophical text."
I don't see this. Inasmuch as the translator is successful in maintaining the MAIN lines of thoughts and arguments, something which I think your example off a deletion incidentally does absolutely nothing to undermine, there's no reduced potential from learning, since the texts are no less philosophically difficult as a result. I see that when considering two possible translations of an original, unique opportunities arise, e.g. one can consider which is more consistent with the rest of the text. But of course it's always true that we can enhance learning on various ways. When working with early modern philosophers, however, I think it's by far the most important that students grasp the main philosophical content, and the texts are very well suited to that.

Ole Koksvik

(None of which undermines your main point, of course.)

 Michael Kremer

One thing that disturbs me in Bennett is the retranslation of texts written in English into more contemporary English. This is disturbing in part because some of the writers he is retranslating in this way are great stylists of the English language. We don't do this to Shakespeare when we teach his works to English-speaking undergraduates; instead we supply some apparatus to help the students understand the texts.

Even in writers dead not so long ago, we can find usages that contemporary students might be puzzled by -- for instance, Ryle in The Concept of Mind speaks of someone's "hilarity," meaning their "cheerfulness". Maybe we should rejigger those texts too in order to make the arguments clearer to our students?

I suppose my objection is this: one thing English-speaking university students can get out of reading early modern texts written in English, in more or less their original form (I make allowances for modernized spelling, I guess) is an appreciation for their own language, its history and its richness, and even the way in which it has been adapted to philosophical use. That is a loss.

Daniel Nagase

I just wanted to second Kremer's comment. English is my second language, and I distinctly remember the impact Hume's prose had on my developing a certain fluency within this language. In fact, as an EFL teacher, I constantly rely on early modern or modern texts in order to introduce my students to advanced classes. It strikes me as a bit bizarre to lose this stylistic model for a rather diffuse ideal of clarity.

Eric Schliesser

Ole, you are begging the question in the way you assume to know what "the main philosophical content" is (and also "in maintaining the MAIN lines of thoughts and arguments,"). In the example the omitted passage offers valuable information on how Berkeley saw the conceptual possibility space of key metaphysical doctrines. If you simply ignore that or take it for granted, you are actually missing crucial bits of content (and fail to see the constraints on the arguments).
Maybe you, too, need some more history of philosophy in your life?


In general, I would give the author the benefit of the doubt: maybe s/he did not have access to the book (small university, developing country)? Also observe that the first pages of a book are often included in online previews, so an accurate citation of this part does not demonstrate that the author has had access to the full book.
Of course, if the whole argument depends on the details of a passage, the author should do more effort to consult the original text (e.g., ask a colleague at a different university to scan the relevant pages); so I do agree with point 2.

P.D. Magnus

Sylvia: Because the Three Dialogues is old and in English, complete editions of the original are available on-line.

I confess that I have cited one of Bennett's editions in a published paper. I did so in a footnote, because he resolved an ambiguity in the text in precisely the way I was advocating in the body of my paper. So I was using it as a evidence of how he interpreted the passage, rather than as a source about the original passage itself.

On the general point of whether Bennett's editions are good for undergraduates, I agree that it is usually best to have students struggle with the originals. But it can be an odd juxtaposition for them when they read translated texts (rendered by translators in contemporary English) alongside English language originals which have old-style capitalization and spelling. Reading Descartes and then Locke, my students sometimes report a sense that Locke is just more archaic. So there is some case to be made for using a cleaned up edition.

Samuel Rickless

Does "cleaning up" mean removing italics? Hmmm. I once thought of writing a paper about Locke's use of italics to refer to verbal propositions (as opposed to mental propositions) in the Essay, with ramifications for the proper interpretation of his theory of truth and knowledge. I might still write it up....

Beau Madison Mount

So 'perceive', 'outward' and 'inherent' are "obsolete words"? Oy.

I tend to think that, where there is a clear edition of reference, journals should simply demand that the final version of an author's piece cite to it, in the absence of special reasons to the contrary. (Where the edition is easily available, we should demand the same of our students.)

(I definitely wouldn't require this in the initial submitted version, because not everyone has access to good libraries. But if you have access to a copy of Jessop and Luce, there's really no excuse for not using it.)

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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