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Academic Events

The Summer Seminar of Sihai Center for Legal Translation Was Successfully Held


On the afternoon of August 25, 2020, the Sihai Center for Legal Translation held the 2020 summer seminar through the Tencent Meeting. The host, Prof. Yao Yuan, first welcomed the teachers and students participating in this seminar. Then he introduced the special guest, Prof. Sun Haibo, from the Institute of Comparative Law in China University of Political Science and Law, and his achievement in translation. Then, in the opinion of Prof. Yao, one of the fundamental aims of the Sihai Center is to cultivate young scholars in the field of academic translation, and this event is to provide such a platform for five students to present their translation work in the summer of 2020.


The first speaker was Mao Xinzhe, a student from the Law School of Nanjing University. He reported his translation of Bentham's Panopticon. Panopticon is a set of letters written by Bentham in 1787, related to the Inspection-house/Elaboratory built by his brother Samuel Bentham in Crecheff. “Morals reformed — health preserved — industry invigorated — instruction diffused — public burthens lightened — Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock — the gordian knot of the Poor Laws are not cut, but untied — all by a simple idea in Architecture!” “To say all in one word, it will be found applicable, I think, without exception, to all establishments whatsoever, in which, within a space not too large to be covered or commanded by buildings, a number of persons are meant to be kept under inspection.” It can be used to satisfy objects of safe custody, confinement, solitude, forced laboury and instruction. The building is circular, with cells on the circumference and a tower in the center. Because of its unique design, the inspectors in the tower can easily watch every corner of each cell, while the prisoner cannot see inside the tower. At the same time, prisoners are able to meet all their needs and communicate with inspectors without leaving their cells, so subordinates can be constantly monitored too. Such buildings can be connected by a covered gallery, extending around a certain area into a group of buildings, and the surrounded open area can also realize panoramic view through the galleries. Bentham talked a lot about the main points and advantages of this plan. In short, the inspectors can watch most of the cells at one time, and all the cells without leaving the tower; the prisoners are in constant fear because they do not know whether they are being watched or not. At the same time, with panoramic views and tin tubes, inspectors can constantly monitor the behavior of their subordinates. Mao also mentioned five key points in translation: the overall grasp of an article, the proficiency in Chinese and foreign languages, the theoretical reserve in related fields, life experience and imagination.


Secondly, Hou Annuo from Nanjing Normal University made a report on his translation of Montesquieu by Franz Neumann. As to the first part of the essay “Montesquieu: the man”, based upon M’s life experience and his thoughts reflected in Persian Letters, Hou made a summary on M’s concern about “the dehumanization of man” and his characteristic, which is pessimistic while conservative. As to the second part “Montesquieu and French Politics”, he introduced M’s conservative political scheme, its gains and losses along with the reasons of its emergence, not only in connection with the political situation of France in the 17th and 18th century, but also with the conflict on political thought of two contemporary schools, namely the monarchists(the thése royale) and the aristocrats(the thése nobiliaire). As to the third part “Montesquieu: the Political Scientist”, he first introduced the author’s discussion about the core content of the Spirit of Law based upon M’s methodology featured with historicism and relativism, mainly focusing on M’s ontological understanding of social characteristics(including the nature of the State and the principles of different government types) and his functional division on different layers of law. Then the focus shifted to M’s theory on separation of powers, the report concentrating on the actual situation of British constitution that time, modifications M made on Locke’s theory of power and the impact of M’s theory on political practice. The report ended with an emphasis on the author’s reflection based upon M’s theory, which coincides with his problem consciousness on Nazi system: Guaranteeing freedom requires balance of power in social groups, rather than blind worship of separating powers on the system level. 


Next, Wuliang, who is a postgraduate from Southwest University Faculty of Psychology, reported his translation, Franz Rudolf Bienenfeld’s Prolegomèna to a Psychoanalysis of Law and Justice. Bienenfeld was born in 1886 and died in 1961. Among his books were Haftungen ohne Verschulden, Germans & Jews, and Rediscovery of Justice. This work was one of the masterpieces of psychoanalytic legal philosophy. When it was published, two parts, “Fundamental Relationships” and “Analysis,” are included. The former was presented in this report and divided into three chapters, “Introduction,” “the Family” and “the State.” “Introduction” was the summary of two parts and put forward a method, “institutional psychology.” “The Family” covered five sections, including siblings, parents and children, husband and wife, security and safety and relativity of natural law. In this article, relationships were basic. Therefore, the speaker stated in details the demands of equality, reward, freedom, privilege and preference among children as well as those of theocratic reverence, anarchic individualism, self-determination and social co-operation toward parents. “The State,” in according with the demands from “the Family,” partly discussed the systems of public and private law. Here the speaker referred to a sentence summed up by the author, “In every section of the legal system one of the claims is basic for its formation and direction and is restricted by all others,” and illustrated it by examples in the text. Finally, the speaker shared his translating experience that we need to show respect to the context and translation is an accumulative work.


Next, Ma Ke from Nanjing Normal University reported the translation work of General Principles of Law by Giorgio Del Vecchio. She first introduced the biography of the author and the outline of this work, then her feelings about translation. Giorgio Del Vecchio is a well-known legal philosopher of Italy and representative of Neo-Kantianism. General Principles of Law was an introduction to his course on Philosophy of Law when he was a professor in Rome University. Pound wrote the introduction for the English translation edition and thought the work was an exceptionally clear and well argued as well as thoroughly documented exposition by a leader among philosophical jurists. To conform to the exigency of practical justice, the judge can never refuse to make judgment. The legislator has indicated the sources to which the judge should resort when there is not a precise rule of law: analogy is the first; when this fails, reference should be made to the general principles of law. The Austrian Civil Code made special reference to the “principles of natural law” while the Albertine Civil Code referred to the “general principles of law”. But the references had no substantial differences. Besides, general principles of law should not be defined in Italy. Rather, reference should be made to those logical and ethical elements in the law common to virtually all peoples. The legislator requires general principles of law and specific rules must coordinate. Therefore, comparison, inspection and affirmation should be made at any moment between rules and rules with principles. Reason should resort to living spring inside. As for feelings about translation, she concluded in three aspects: state of mind, hard work and techniques.


After that, Lu Huiwen from Nanjing University reported Frank's translation of Justice Holmes and Non-Euclidean Legal Thinking. Jerome Frank is a representative of the American legal realism movement. This article was published in 1932 and is a logical supplement to Law and the Modern Mind. At the beginning of the article, Frank compared the conventional and chaotic status of American legal system to Italy in the early 16th century. He thought that Holmes paved the way for the overthrow of all legal dogmatism, just like Machiavelli, whorekindled the torch of reason at that time. In “The Path of Law”, Holmes wrote that just like the bad man, the focus of law was not rules, but the court decisions in specific litigation cases. On this basis, Frank challenged the axioms of the traditional jurisprudence, and proposed that only by studying reality, considering judicial practice in the society, and understanding the effect of the judges’ characters on the adjudication,so could we break downthe dogmatism. In the sense of creating a new pattern oflegal thinking, Holmes is the true pioneer of non-Euclidean legal thinking. When translating this article, the translator should pay attention to the ideological background of Holmes's theory , the clarification of key concepts and the grasp of the author's language style. It can be seen that translation practice is also a way ofacademic training.


In the last section of discussion, Prof. Sun Haibo commented on the students’ presentations and gave some of his own opinions.


As for the translation work of Bentham’s the Panopticon, he pointed out that most people only learned about the panopticon from second-hand resources, which merely included the basic structure of the panopticon and a glimpse into the ideas behind it. As a result, listening to such a vivid and illustrated presentation for the first time on this topic was very inspirational. For the second presentation on Montesquieu by Franz Neumann, he commented that the student not only finished the translation work but also sorted out the whole theoretical framework of Montesquieu. For Prolegomena to a Psychoanalysis of Law and Justice, Franz Rudolf Bienenfeld,he believed it introduced a new way to elucidate the relationship between law and justice. When referring to General Principle of Law by Giorgio Del Vecchino, he empathized the importance of the general principle of law, for it concerns both the concept and the method of law. He went on to bring up two valuable topics in this area. First one is how a principle becomes a principle of law. Due to the universality of principles of law, moral ones need to be abstracted and generalized. In addition, principles of law require the support from positive law. Second is how to use the principle of law, which has always been at the core of legal methodology. He thought that applying any principle of law requires complex concretization. One is supposed to form applicable plans for cases after categorization and instantiation under value judgement. Last, for the presentation on Mr. Justice Holmes and Non-Euclidean Legal Thinking by Jerome Frank, he gave a brief introduction to Justice Holmes and Jerome Frank and their shared legal realistic stand. He also compared Jerome Frank and Karl Llewellyn who were both skeptics of rule and came to the conclusion that although legal realists could be extreme some time, they to some extent still followed the rules.


After the comments, Prof. Sun Haibo shared his own experiences of translation. First, he believed that to translate is to understand and then to explain. Having understood the text fully is always step one for translation. Translators should stay loyal to the original work and avoid too much personal explanations. However, when encountered with difficulties of finding exact counterparts in the Chinese context, one could make some constructive explanations with as little deviation from the original work as possible. Language that is comprehensible and plain to readers should be employed. Add subject, clarify pronouns, use correct punctuation and deconstruct long sentences whenever it’s necessary. Translators also should choose books within their reach, that is to say, books with topics that interest them or are familiar to them. It’s feasible that we go through the process of short to long, articles to books. Apart from that, translation should be treated with great caution. Read the text word by word and turn to reliable dictionaries or applications for help with long sentences or words. It is a basic academic training that requires years of perseverance and careful plans. It goes beyond itself to become a learning process for translators to learn from authors the writing styles or the patterns to discuss problems. Translators are those who have direct access to the original work, thus able to see what the author is trying to say more clearly.


At the end of his speech, Prof. Sun Haibo reiterated the values of translation training for the young students. Prof. Yao Yuan gave a summary and brought the discussion to a successful conclusion.