One of the hard problems of consciousness is “qualia” or the “red” problem. We all know what “red” means even though we might associate it with different even incompatible things. How so? How do we constantly and usually effortlessly negotiate these questions?
Further to the recent claim that no mathematical model of consciousness works on a computer,:
The Dictionary of Untranslatables offers proof that ideas like “democracy,” “revolution,” “politics,” and even “existence” translate easily from County Cork to Kyiv.
Not that we shouldn’t attend to the nuances—vive la différence! Inevitably, the more different, the more striking: Take Russian pravda, a blackened word that is finally shedding the connotations of Soviet agitprop. Usually translated as “truth”, vérité, Wahrheit, and the like, pravda also has “justice, legitimacy, law, equity” very much in its semantic field according to the Dictionary, reflecting a traditional view, now “broken by modern physics,” that the world endures through the just, that “truth” is not fully autonomous but has a moral character. (It’s not clear if this has affected actual usage, or if a nuanced understanding of pravda is really so far from the idea of “truth” in a contemporary English expression like “speak truth to power.”)
Another case, from the other side of the continent, is saudade, “a tender malaise,” an untranslatable nostalgia-and-then-some long presented as “the key feeling of the Portuguese soul,” the longing of “a people that has always looked beyond its transatlantic horizons.” The Dictionary takes us on a bracing journey through the history of saudade, from a 14th-century codex to the Jesuit António Vieira’s fantastical History of the Future and a samba by the legendary Brazilian musician Antônio Carlos Jobim. We learn that the word has consistently been used to assert a national character in the face of outside intrusion.
Note: The article itself seems like a precious load of what’s wrong with the arts these days. The arts couldn’t find a materialism to sell out to that would allow them to make sense or have any standards. So they don’t.
Never mind. The comprehensible “untranslatables” translate well enough for the rest of us to demonstrate the hard problem of consciousness.
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