For both Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur understanding is a condition of human existence. Both thinkers describe understanding itself as translation insofar as understanding involves a transformative relation between people which produces meaning and which is never finished. This chapter begins by examining Gadamer’s philosophical heritage of romantic hermeneutics and phenomenology, paying particular attention to the influence of Martin Heidegger and the latter’s accounts of thrownness and situated understanding. It goes on to describe the role of crucial ideas such as prejudice (Vorurteil), dialogue, the hermeneutic circle and the ‘fusion of horizons’. Specifically, how these concepts impact both on what the aim of translation is and on how a practising translator is to proceed.

The second half of the chapter turns to Ricoeur and his shared phenomenological heritage with Gadamer. However, translation for Ricoeur is a much broader concept that concerns not only an operation between languages but also offers itself as a paradigm for intersubjective relations. Here I outline Ricoeur’s account of interlingual translation as a choice between faithfulness and betrayal. I then go on to explore the manner in which he understands translation as a political and cultural model of exchange.

Translation necessarily gives rise to a number of ethical and political questions which are difficult to address. While both thinkers share a number of positions and concepts, this chapter’s central claim is that Ricoeur’s expanded account of translation is more attuned to those difficulties than Gadamer’s.