Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.12.34 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.12.34

Carnes Lord, Aristotle's Politics. Translated with an Introduction, Notes and Glossary. Second edition (first edition published 1984).   Chicago; London:  University of Chicago Press, 2013.  Pp. xlvii, 265.  ISBN 9780226921846.  $15.00 (pb).  


Reviewed by Clifford Angell Bates, Jr., Uniwersytet Warszawski, American Studies Center (c.a.bates@uw.edu.pl)

Preview

The University of Chicago Press released the second edition of Carnes Lord's translation of Aristotle's Politics one year short of the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the first edition in 1984. And if one looked at the amount of scholarship focusing on Aristotle's Politics between the release of the first edition and the second, one would notice a relative boom in journal articles, book chapters, and whole books on the subject. It could likewise be said there has been a boom in translations, either of individual sections or books, or of the whole of the Politics.

When the first edition was published in 1984, Carnes Lord’s translation differed from previously available translations of the Politics in that its aim was "to provide as literal and faithful a rendering" of the Politics "as compatible with contemporary English usage" (Lord 1984, 25). Ideally, the goal was to give to the reader of the English translation a text that was relatively close to being a mirror of the Greek, so that if the argument in the Greek original was complex and difficult, the translation should echo its complexity and difficulty. What should be avoided is making what is difficult or problematic in the Greek appear clearer and non-problematic in the English.

Yet not everyone was happy with the first edition of Lord’s translation. Many who agreed with the need for literal translation from the Greek were unhappy because they thought that what Lord ultimately produced was Hellenized English jargon rather than contemporary English. They felt that the tone and style was alien to the typical English reader and would make approaching this text more, not less, difficult. This led others to attempt a more readable translation: see Apostle and Gerson 1986; Simpson 1997; Reeve 1998; and finally Sachs 2012. Perhaps in response to these other translations, and to address issues that emerged out of the 30 years of scholarship on Aristotle’s Politics, Lord and his publishers felt the need for an update of his translation.

The second edition differs from the first edition in many ways, both in the presentation of the text and in its translation. The new edition clearly follows the format set by Bartlett and Collins (2011) (a translation of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, also published by the University of Chicago Press), where the footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page and the text of the translation spread evenly on the page. The change in placement of the notes makes it easier for the reader to check out a note and thus reflect on what is being done in that part of the text by Lord, rather than having to flip to the back of the book which the previous edition necessitated. Also the first edition offered more space between the chapters than the new one. All of these changes leave much less marginal space for annotations. The older also employed bolder fonts which made for a more emphatic look.

The most significant addition to the second edition is the bibliography, which offers not only a list of other translations of the Politics, but also a selective list of major scholarship on the work. Although nowhere near as exhaustive as the recent bibliography by Thornton Lockwood in the Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics (Deslauriers and Destreé 2013, 375-406), it is nonetheless a useful addition.

The substance and number of notes in this second edition have increased from the first, reflecting changes in how certain passages can be understood based on recent scholarship. Yet in many ways one wishes that the notes more fully addressed the reasons why Lord decided to make changes he now does make in his translation for the second edition. Some scholarly readers would like to know the rationale behind the changes in terms: whether they were based on current trends in scholarship (and if so what scholarship) or due other factors (and ‘what those factors’ were).

As to the differences in the translation between the second edition and the first, let the following stand as representative examples.

In the first edition Lord translated koinonia as “partnership”. Here is the start of Politics 1.1 (1252a1-6; Lord 1984, 35):

Since we see that every city is some sort of partnership, and that every partnership is constituted for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what is held to be good), it is clear that all partnerships aim at some good, and that the partnership that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political partnership.

In the second edition, the passage reads (Lord 2013, 1):

Since we see that every city is some sort of community, and that every community is constituted for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what is held to be good), it is clear that all communities aim at some good, and the community that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political community.

Another example of a difference in the translation of the same term comes at Politics 1.2, where in the first edition reads (1252b28-31; Lord 1984, 36-37):

The partnership arising from [the union of] several villages that is complete is the city. It reaches a level of full self-sufficiency, so to speak; and while coming into being for the sake of living, it exists for the sake of living well. Every city, therefore exits by nature, if such also are the first partnerships.

In the second edition, the passage reads (Lord 2013, 3):

The complete community, arising from several villages, is the city. It reaches a level of full self-sufficiency, so to speak; and while coming into being for the sake of living, it exists for the sake of living well. Every city, therefore exists by nature, if such are also the first communities.

Another change from the first to the second is in the handling of the term eunomia. At 3.9, 1280b6 and 4.8, 1994a3, Lord originally translated eunomia as "good management" (1984, 98 and 130); in the second, he translates it as "good governance" (Lord 2013, 76 and 110). Lord provides a note in the new edition to explain his translation at 1280b6 (Lord 2013, 76 n. 40), but the note does not really explain the change to “governance” from “management”. Perhaps it is a move towards more political language than the more generic language that marked Lord's first edition. The first edition’s rather generic treatment of these types of rule was something that violated the spirit of the claim made by Aristotle at Politics 1.1, 1252a7-16 that political rule is different in kind (i.e. that the nature of this type rule differs in substance) from the other types of rule. The second edition's translation of this specific term points to a more clearly political meaning.

Now let me point to a few cases where the second edition seems to be less helpful than the first. I start with the Greek term dynasteia, which plays a key role in Politics 4.5, 1292b5-10 where it distinguishes forms of oligarchy where sons inherit from fathers. In the first edition, Lord uses the term "dynasty" for the Greek term (see Lord 1984, 127). This makes more sense in English than his choice in the second edition of "rule of the powerful" (Lord 2013, 107). Why he switched from "dynasty" to "rule of powerful" is explained only in a note at the bottom of the page, which sends the reader to Politics “2.10.13-14”, where Aristotle speaks of the Cretan regime. There Lord has a note which states: "'Rule of the powerful' (dynasteia) is a term Aristotle will use of a narrow, kin-based oligarchy that rules in a personalistic manner rather than under law" (Lord 2013, 55 n. 104). But this note really does not provide the reader with an explanation of why "rule of the powerful" is a better translation than "dynasty".

Now, when we look at how Lord treats the Greek term hypothesis, we see that he does something strange: in the first edition he consistently translated the term as "presupposition" (Lord 1984, 183) but in the second edition he translates it as "premise"(Lord 2013, 172). In the glossary for the second edition he has two entries for the Greek word hypothesis, one entry for "Basic Premise" (Lord 2013, 240) and another for "Presupposition" (Lord 2013, 246). In my scanning of the second edition, however, I could not find any use of "presupposition".

Other alterations in translation include genos, translated as "type" in the first edition (Lord 1984, 280) and "family" in the second (Lord 2013, 242); chrematismos, which is "business" in the first edition (Lord 1984, 274) but "getting” in the second (Lord 2013, 242); in the first edition, "right" (Lord 1984, 279) was one of the possible translation for kalos, but not in the second (in the second edition "right" is the translation for orthos, which was translated in the first edition as "correct").

Nowhere does Lord in the second edition give the reader an explanation why he shifted from the words he used in the first edition to the new words he uses in the second. I suspect many readers would be interested to know why these changes were made. And the absence of such explanations makes this new translation less valuable to those scholars interested in issues of translation, and in the meaning of Aristotle’s terms and concepts in contemporary English usage.

Overall many people will welcome this new edition of Lord’s translation. Others, however, will be disappointed by many of the points that I raise above (and perhaps others things that this review may have overlooked). Regardless of disagreement on such issues, this new edition of Lord’s will continued to be a widely used translation of Aristotle’s Politics, as was the first edition.1


Notes:


1.   References:

Apostle, H. G. and Gerson, L. P. (1986) (tr.), The Politics of Aristotle. Des Moines, IA: Peripatetic Press.
Bartlett, R. and Collins, S. (2011) (tr.), Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Deslauriers, M. and Destreé, P. (2013) (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle’s Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lord, C. (1984) (ed. and tr.), Aristotle The Politics. 1st edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Reeve, C. D. C. (1998) (ed. and tr.), Aristotle Politics. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co.
Sachs, J. (2012) (ed. and tr.), Aristotle The Politics. Newberrypoint, MA: Focus Publishing.
Simpson, P. L. P. (1997) (ed. and tr.), The Politics of Aristotle. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
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