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Re: Discernment

Posted by R. Berg on October 06, 2001

In Reply to: A source on English usage for difficult translations posted by Peter Gillespie on October 06, 2001

: I am stuck on whether one can use the word 'discernment' to speak of a quality as in the following phrase :

: "Such is the cry of indignation whose discernment as measured by our hesitancy as adults summoned to make a positive determination on questions of fairness, is sometimes staggering." (my translation)

: This is a quote from a French philosophical anthropologist, Ricoeur. He is sublimating the insight of the crier to the cry itself, thus making the cry 'insightful'. To paraphrase, can a 'cry' be insightful?

: Thanks.

A difficult sentence, all right. "Discernment" can mean perceptiveness or insight, but it can also mean an act of perceiving, and this latter meaning will lead the reader astray. Your proposed translation is too likely to be construed to mean "We are sometimes amazed at how readily the task of making judgments about fairness makes us aware of [i.e., brings to the fore] the cry of indignation." Ordinarily people don't attribute insight to a cry unless they're out somewhere in the thin atmosphere of metaphor and poetry. If the author did so, however, I suppose the translator must go along. A term such as "insightfulness" or "keenness of judgment" would avoid the ambiguity in "discernment." Another point: That comma after "fairness" needs a partner earlier in the sentence.