Notes on translations

The problems of translation are well known, and the best translators are never immune to misunderstandings or approximations.

The idea here is first and foremost to thank all the translators and proofreaders who have contributed so far, as well as all the readers who are willing to send their comments or, directly, suggestions for better translations.

1. Among the difficulties encountered, we should mention several cases where French has two distinct words – and therefore two slightly different meanings – where other languages usually have only one. For example:

RêveDreamSognoTraumSueño, soñar

Compared to “rêve” (dream), “songe” (“dream”) can occur while half-asleep or half-awake, and has obvious indications, with no need for interpretation (unlike dreams).

Compared to “espoir” (hope), “espérance” (“hope”) is without any particular expectation; it is not the hope of something.

2. A further difficulty arose with the two French words: “savoir” (to know) and “connaître” (to know), each of which may have been specialized, in metaphysics, to account for two types of knowledge:

– The French word “savoir” rather refers to knowledge by abstraction. This is orchestrated by calculating and conceptual reason, this discursive reason – dianoia – conducting hypothetico-deductive reasoning. This type of knowledge maintains the separation between the knower and the known.

– The term “connaître” refers rather to knowledge by participation, linked to intellectual intuition. For Plato, this is intuitive knowledge through the dialectical ascent of the intellect – noèsis. The intelligible or semantic is received by the intellect without it ever being able to generate it on its own. There is cognitive identity: the intelligibility of reality is united with intelligence, which is the sense of reality, in the same way that salty only makes sense to the palate.

SavoirTo knowSapereWissenConozca
Connaître(To cognize)Conoscere(Kennen)Visite ?

Adding to this difficulty is the inversion effected by Kantianism, which placed reason (Vernunft) above intelligence (Verstand), contrary to what all the philosophers before it had understood (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Leibniz, Malebranche…). As Kant put it: “Intellectual intuition is not ours […] we cannot even contemplate the possibility of it”1.

However, there is the fundamental Leibnizian correction: “nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu” (nothing is in the intellect that was not previously in the senses), with the addition “nisi ipse intellectus” (if not the intellect itself)2 or Hegel, recommending the opposite complement: “nihil est in sensu quod non prius fuerit in intellectu” (nothing is in the senses that was not previously in the intellect)3.

Despite these reactions, intelligence has for many become a mere object of reason – and of psychology and neurobiology – up to the ambiguous formula of AI (artificial intelligence), when in fact it is merely AR (artificial reason). Indeed, having acquired mechanical energy (fire, draught animals, steam, oil, electricity, atomic energy), mankind has now simply acquired mental energy.

This function of intelligence as a sense of reality and as a mirror (speculum in Latin) reflecting the Ideas is the very possibility of metaphysics. This must be borne in mind, whatever the performance of the translations.


  1. Critique of Pure Reason (French ed. trans. Tremesaygues and Pacaud, P.U.F., p. 226).[]
  2. New Essays on Human Understanding, Book II, chap. 1, § 2.[]
  3. Hegel’s Logic (French ed. trans. Augusto Véra, Paris: Ladrange, 1859, t. I, pp. 217-21).[]