Chapter 14: Conclusion
1. In view of the difficulties with the application of a scientific paradigm in translation research, Robinson has suggested that it may be preferable to abandon that framework and adopt other methods, in particular hermeneutic methods. He suggests that hermeneutics is better suited to the object of study (Robinson 1998, 121). Robinson raises here the issue that a particular object of study may call for a particular method of study. The debate takes the more specific form of whether natural science methods are appropriate or sufficient in the humanities. The argument against the application of scientific methods in the humanities is generally based on the assertion that there is a crucial difference between man and things. Anthony Giddens expresses the consequence of that difference by saying that natural sciences operate with a single hermeneutic, whereas social sciences operate with a double hermeneutic:
Sociology, unlike natural science, stands in a subject-subject relation to its ‘field of study’, not a subject-object relation; it deals with a pre-interpreted world, in which the meanings developed by active subjects actually enter into the constitution or production of that world; the construction of social theory thus involves a double hermeneutic that has no parallel elsewhere. (Giddens 1993, 154)
2. The idea of an ontological difference between nature and man has, however, been challenged. Richard Rorty says that we cannot know a priori that man and nature are distinct sorts of entities. Following on from his pragmatist stance Rorty says that the method chosen should be a function of the researcher’s objectives and not of the essences of the objects studied (Rorty 1982). This stance clearly supports methodological pluralism, but even proponents of an ontological man/thing divide are not against the use of natural science methods in the humanities as long as they are complemented by hermeneutic studies (Giddens 1984, 334). Methodological pluralism promotes intellectual inquiry, since knowledge is obtained from a proliferation of views rather than from the determined application of a preferred ideology. It does not entail relativism, since a methodological framework is judged on its productiveness (Roth 1987). A method can also be judged in the light of the aim of a project (Chalmers 1982, 166). If the method is not effective or fruitful it should be modified or something else tried.
3. Toury’s scientism should not be condemned outright, since his method has been an extremely fruitful development in translation research from various points of view, but as Toury himself says, he considers his book Descriptive Translation Studies and beyond(where he expounds his ideas the most fully to date) to be an “interim report; at best, a stepping stone for further developments of the discipline in one particular direction” (Toury 1995, 5). Toury respects different approaches from his own, and feels that each approach should be judged on its own terms (Toury 1998b, 133). In his own research orientation Toury welcomes debate and change as that is the motor for development in research (Toury 1995, 5). What is certain is that Toury has been a pioneering figure in the discipline of Translation Studies, and his work has a lasting influence.