Monday, 27 April 2009

Kaye on Auriol on the Semantics of Prophecy

Sharon Kaye's article ‘Some Philosophical Reflections on the Coming of the Antichrist’ (2000) makes more depressing reading than its title might suggest.  She erroneously ascribes to Auriol the thesis that what a prophet means in uttering a prophecy is contingent on what happens in the future – and the translation on which she bases this interpretation is the worst that I have ever seen in a learned journal.

Propositiones propheticae aliud significant ex institutione et ex natura propositionum, aliud vero dant intelligere ex intentione prophetae. … secundum autem intentionem prophetae, verae sunt, quia dant intelligere quod in divina notitia est quaedam veritas ineffabilis et quaedam determinatio illius materiae de qua formantur.  (Auriol, Scriptum I.38.iii, 1166–71)

Roughly:  ‘Prophetic statements signify one thing by convention and by the nature of statements, and give <us> to understand another by the intention of the prophet. … according to the intention of the prophet they are true, for they give <us> to understand that in the divine cognition there is a certain ineffable truth and a certain determination of the matter about which they are formed.’

Kaye's translation:  ‘In one way, prophetic statements signify by convention and by the nature of the statement, but in another way, they express the intention of the prophet. … according to the intention of the prophet, they are true.  For they express what is in the divine cognition, namely, a certain ineffable truth and a certain determination of the matter about which they are formed.’

This doubly misidentifies what is signified by prophetic utterances as (1) the prophet's intention and (2) something (or rather two things, one of which was supposed to be ineffable) in the divine cognition.

What is most striking here is how straightforward the Latin is.  I can understand her immediately subsequent mistranslation of  ‘quod a Deo praedicitur ut in pluribus evenit’  as  ‘what is predicted by God happens in many ways’,  because the correct translation (‘usually happens’) requires some knowledge of the subject-matter.  But there is no such excuse for the flagrant errors identified above.  O tempora!