Philosophising in Tongues: Philosophy, Politics and Language module (PI31027)

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Module code


  • Level 3
  • 24 places
  • Philosophy - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%


Whilst language has always been a concern of philosophy, in the new millennium, and partly due to the globalisation of English, questions pertaining to (un)translatability, language politics and linguistic justice have been moving to the fore in philosophy. Indeed, far beyond traditional concerns that have focused only on the accuracy of translated philosophical texts, translation is fast becoming one of the most fundamental tropes for the very workings of philosophy. Accordingly, this course begins by considering some of the most important theories of translation advanced by French and German language philosophers, before then focusing on normative matters pertaining to language use, such as various language policies, forms of linguistic nationalism, or reactions to the globalisation of the English language and questions of linguistic justice and language death.


Dr Oisín Keohane


  • Textual commentary (1,500 words)
    Comparative translation exercise (35%)
  • Extended essay (3,500 words) (65%)


Themes to be treated include: the critique of ‘domesticating’ modes of translation, the contrast between communication and translation, the politics of translation, the very idea of the untranslatable, the role of (a given ‘national’) language in philosophy, philosophical nationalism, ‘Anglobalisation’, language policies, language rights, linguistic justice and language death.

To examine these themes, we will engage with works by some of the following authors (or similar authors):

  • Theodor Adorno
  • Emily Apter
  • Walter Benjamin
  • Antoine Berman
  • Barbara Cassin
  • Jacques Derrida
  • Jürgen Habermas
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Peter Ives
  • Will Kymlicka
  • Stephen May
  • Phillipe Van Parijs
  • Yael Peled
  • Anthony Pym
  • Paul Ricoeur
  • Friedrich Schleiermacher
  • Helder De Schutter
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
  • Lawrence Venuti

Module Aims

  • To acquire detailed knowledge of debates in philosophy of translation, applied philosophy of language, and linguistic political philosophy
  • To introduce students to some of the most urgent problems associated with linguistic nationalism, the globalisation of the English language or language death
  • To gain in-depth knowledge of why language matters in philosophy, beyond simply the area known as philosophy of language
  • For students to develop a critical assessment of views examined in class and for them to articulate their own views on the same topic
  • For students to write a well-researched paper on a subject that necessitates thinking across the fields of philosophy of language, translation studies and political philosophy


This module is available on following courses: