Re: linguistis and positivism

On Fri, 29 Apr 1994, Mari Olsen wrote:

> 	I second Malcolm Ross' posting:  I too was dis-eased with the
> discussion of positivism and it's theological implications,
> particularly with the link to dynamic equivalence theory.  It is my
> experience that dynamic equivalence orientation (though admittedly
> imprecise from a theoretical standpoint) provides a way out of the
> 'what does it mean'/'how does one translate it' dichotomy.  While not
> necessarily claiming that there are platonic semantic categories,
> dynamic equivalence allows one to draw on the similarity in human
> experience to provide functional semantic equivalences
> in the target language.  

No one knows better than I how much I regret having started this entire 
discussion, but I am happy that people like you have been willing to make 
such eloquent contributions.  I think this is exactly right. BTW; I have 
*no idea* how dynamic equivalency got connected to positivism; that 
wasn't my move.  In fact, I posted questioning the connection, but don't 
recall ever getting a reply.  It is my understanding that the theory is 
exactly opposed to the *Tractatus* Wittgenstein/*Principia* Russell- 
Whitehead/*Word and Object* Quine tradition.

> 	The nature of 'equivalence' is certainly in
> need of clarification, but no less than the nature of meaning within
> an individual language.  I have taught seminars on linguistics
> and bible translation in a few settings (even quite fundamental).  I
> have found that explication of the principles of dynamic equivalence
> theory raises the consciousness of lay-people to the broader semantic
> issues involved.  That is, once translation is described in terms of
> mapping semantics/function, the 'literal' view of scripture (in its
> straw-man form) falls over (or at least tilts--even in quite
> fundamental settings). 

In my experiences attempting to teach these issues (which have been, 
primarily, in the church) I have found constant resentment to the idea of 
dynamic equivalence from those of more conservative theological bents; 
particularly from those with fundamentalist leanings.  They seem to 
perceive it as some kind of modernist/neo-orthodox/secular humanist/new 
age (pick your favorite whipping person) plot to steal "truth" away from 
the Bible.  The words "literal," "true," and "inerrant" have become 
inextricably linked together in a hopeless confusion that many will 
defend to the death, confident that they are following the same path of 
martyrdom tread by the likes of Polycarp, Servetus, and Brother Biddle 
(but I wax satirical; forgive me).

In reflecting on the ways in which more dynamic models of translation 
theory are castigated by more conservative branches of the church, I came 
to realize that the protests smacked often of the kinds of "one form/one 
meaning"--"one word/one meaning" pseudo pscientific view of language that 
permeated the early Analytic period and the Vienna Cyrcle ("like a red 
rubber ball ... ").  It was these reflections that motivated my first
posting on this matter, for which I am adequately repentent.

BTW: Perhaps the most regrettable casualty of the fundamentalist/
/evangelical insistence on "literal" theories of translation is the Good 
News Bible, which so many insist on calling a "paraphrase" and lumping in 
the same category as (Ick!) the Living Bible.  Years ago I tried using 
the TEV (which, as we all know, stands for "Good News Bible") in 
preaching/teaching situations, but found that I spent so much time 
defending my use of it that I could never get to the point at hand!
> Of course, one can't use just any word/phrase to mean just anything,

I think this is *exactly* what many well-meaning sisters and brothers are 
worried about.  Along with teaching translation theory, perhaps we should 
also teach a little logic (Fallacy of the Beard and all that!)

Thanks for a terrific posting!

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
--Groucho Marx

Prof. James F. Sennett
Asst. Professor of Philosophy         sennett@goliath.pbac.edu
Palm Beach Atlantic College                    andretg@aol.com
PO Box 24708                             voice: (407) 835-4431
West Palm Beach, FL  33416-4708            fax: (407) 835-4342

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