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The (Un-)translatability of Religions?

Ricœurs Linguistic Hospitality as Model for Inter-religious Dialogue

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The contemporary theology of inter-religious dialogue is marked by a debate between pluralism on the one hand and post-liberal particularism on the other. According to the first, religious identity implies an openness for religious otherness. Post-liberal particularists, in contrast, draw attention to the value of identity. What matters in the context of plurality is to show more commitment and to stress the particularity of the irreducible difference between the religious languages. From this perspective post-liberal particularism claims an untranslatability of religions. This claim appears to construct a serious barrier within the dialogue between religions. Recently, this discussion between pluralists and post-liberalists has reached an impasse. In this article I set out to give this impasse a new turn. With this view in mind, I am inspired by Ricœur's latest publication On Translation (2006), which is dedicated to the enigma of linguistic diversity and the question of the (un-)translatability of languages. Beyond the mesmerizing discussion concerning the theoretical possibility or impossibility of translation, Ricœur states that the appropriate attitude of a translator is one of linguistic hospitality. Ricœur suggests that this linguistic hospitality can model for inter-religious dialogue. However, he does not elaborate on this thought and challenges others to think through his suggestion. In this article I gladly accept this challenge, hoping that this will throw new light on the current discussion between pluralists and post-liberal particularists. In line with Ricœur's position, I argue that religious languages are not untranslatable and that inter-religious dialogue is possible, provided that the ethical posture of hermeneutical hospitality for the religious other is adopted.

Affiliations: 1: National Fund for Scientific Research, Belgium;, Email:


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