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July 28, 2008

For my Chinese readers...

...a translation of the "Interview about Legal Philosophy," courtesy of Jingzhe Yang, a graduate student in the Department of Jurisprudence at Northwestern University of Politics and Law, on whose web site it appears.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 28, 2008 in My Articles | Permalink


As a Chinese reader following your essays, I feel sorry to say that the translation is unhelpful. I have no problem in understanding the original essay written in English, yet I don't even have a clue about what is going on when reading that translation. I will only give 2 examples.

In question 2, you wrote:

'Positivism is now fairly clearly the default position with respect to the “demarcation problem,”...'

It is indeed a fairly clear statement. But it is terribly translated into a Chinese sentence which, I think, is quite strange:


The problem is they wrongly translate the word "default" into "默认", which means "acquiescence" or "connivance". If the sentence is translated back into English, it will look like this:

'About the "boundary issue", it is now appear that positivism is taking an attitude of acquiescence.'

(But surprisingly, Google translation will translate the term "默认" into "default" or vice versa, but this will be a correct translation only when translating "default setting" into "默认设置" in the context of software configuration.)

In the question 5, you wrote:

'General jurisprudence strikes me as being, at present, a slightly moribund field. This is partly because Hart and Raz offered plausible answers, given their methodological tools, to some of the main problems (as discussed earlier),...'

The term "plausible" is translated into "似是而非", which literally means "seemingly true but false". It is used in the situation that the speaker using the Chinese term disapprove of what has been said as mere rhetoric or playing with words.

I don't really sure about how these mistakes could ever happen. But I personally suspect it is due to the wide popularity of Dworkin's jurisprudence (and the lack of understanding of legal positivism as a "philosophical analysis" in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition) among Chinese legal scholars.

Posted by: AH Yang | Aug 1, 2008 4:49:44 PM

Thank you very much for your concerns about the translation,but I wonder why you are thinking it is unhelpful.
Although the two languages are sometimes can't be perfectly translated, Leiter's thoughts are very helpful to the chinese reader. All I want to do is to make more chinese reader know the thoughs of Prof.Leiter.
I admitted that I may have made some mistakes on using some words properly,but I have try my best to understand Leiter's purposes and to translate the papers honestly. As a chinese reader ,you must know the native scholars' situations clearly, and as a young graduate student who wants to make it better, I am very eager to know someone like you who are concerned about the knowledge communication. Welcome to keep discussing about the translation or any other topics with me. Thank you for your kind critical comments.
And thanks to Prof. Leiter, very appreciate that you posted the information on your blog, I believe that more and more chinese reader are interested in your studies now and they will want to know it more further soon.

Posted by: reply: AH Yang's comment (from Jingzhe Yang) | Aug 6, 2008 12:06:27 AM

Reply to Jingzhe

I fully appreciate your efforts and motivation. I'm glad to see more awareness of and devotion to the study of contemporary legal philosophy from Chinese scholars.

There are a few points to be clarified though. My comment that this piece of translation is unhelpful was not intended to discourage you or more translations of contemporary literature on legal philosophy into Chinese, and I never ever thought that Prof. Leiter's view is unhelpful to Chinese readers. Neither did I set the requirement to a 'perfect' translation and then charge your work with this standard. What I tried to point out was simply that it fails to deliver Leiter's view on what he regards as 'had been the most important issue in general jurisprudence for fifty years or more'. Given the gravity of the mistakes, it was a little hard for me to believe it could be easily explained away by the lack of command in language.

Posted by: AH Yang | Aug 6, 2008 7:56:12 PM

I am grateful to both AH Yang and Jingzhe Yang for their comments and their interest in my work. I am honored that Chinese scholars are interested in Anglophone legal philosophy, including my work. I look forward to fruitful intellectual interchange in the years ahead.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Aug 16, 2008 8:14:37 PM

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