The Ethics of Translator

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LECTURE 1. ETHICS AND TRANSLATION

Plan
1. Ethics as a Science
2. Ethics in Translation
1. Who are Translators?
2. Reliability and Speed in Translation
3. Moral Issues in Translation Business

1. Ethics as a Science

Ethics is the philosophical science that studies morality as a form of social consciousness—as a major aspect of human activity and a specific sociohistorical phenomenon. Ethics illuminates the role of morality in the context of other types of social relations; it analyzes the nature and internal structure of morality, studies its origin and historical development, and provides theoretical justification for one or another moral system. It is concerned with the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong. The term is also applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles. Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics. Normative ethics seeks to establish norms or standards of conduct; a crucial question in this field is whether actions are to be judged right or wrong based on their consequences or based on their conformity to some moral rule, such as “Do not tell a lie.” Metaethics is concerned with the nature of ethical judgments and theories. Since the beginning of the 20th century much work in metaethics has focused on the logical and semantic aspects of moral language. Some major metaethical theories are naturalism, intuitionism, emotivism, and prescriptivism. Applied ethics, as the name implies, consists of the application of normative ethical theories to practical moral problems . Among the major fields of applied ethics are bioethics, business ethics, legal ethics, and medical ethics. In Eastern and classical thought, ethics was initially combined with philosophy and law; it had the primarily practical function of moral instruction directed toward physical and mental health. In the form of aphorisms, such moral instruction can be traced back to oral tradition, through which late clan society had already firmly laid down how individual conduct in practice was to benefit the social whole (that is, the community or tribe). Ethics was made into a separate discipline by Aristotle; it was Aristotle, in fact, who introduced the term by using it in the titles of his Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics, and the work generally known as Magna Moralia. He placed ethics between the doctrine of the soul, or psychology, and the doctrine of the state, or politics; ethics, based on the former, serves the latter, inasmuch as its goal is to mold virtuous citizens of the state. Although the central issue in Aristotle’s ethics was the doctrine of virtues, which he viewed as moral faculties of the individual, his system already incorporated many of the “eternal questions” of ethics—for example, the nature and source of morality, freedom of the will, the foundations of the moral act, justice, and the meaning of life and of the highest good. The traditional division of philosophy into three branches— logic, physics (including metaphysics), and ethics—is derived from the Stoics. This division, continuing through the Middle Ages, was adopted by Renaissance and 17th-century philosophy. It was also adopted by I. Kant, who used it merely as a basis to differentiate between the studies of method, of nature, and of freedom (or morality). Until modern times, however, ethics was frequently understood as the science of man’s nature and of the causes and goals of his actions in general; that is, it coincided with philosophical anthropology or even merged with natural philosophy. This kind of expansion of the subject matter of ethics resulted from the interpretation of its goals; ethics was called on to instruct man in right living on the basis of his own nature (natural or divine). As a consequence, ethics combined the theory of man’s being, the study of the passions...
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