A philosophical lexicon: the translation of the Vocabulaire européen des philosophies (2004) is an invaluable resource for researchers in philosophy and the humanities more generally. Gathering the work of over 150 philosophers, this encyclopaedic project focuses on a series of philosophical terms that prove difficult to translate, disclosing their historical and linguistic intricacies. This review aims to provide a succinct analysis of its structure and rationale. It is suggested that a gap exists between the framing of the Dictionary in relation to a critical European cultural politics and the kind of philosophy it performs – a highly erudite contribution to both the history of philosophy and to philology. It is further argued that this does not get simpler with the edition of this book into English and the potential ‘globalisation’ of its scope. The entries displayed in three words ‘right, just and good’, show the difficulty of applying one and same justice in all European countries.
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“RIGHT/JUST/GOOD: French clearly distinguishes between le bon and le juste, with the former emphasizing individual or collective interest and the latter universal moral law, English is less clear on the distinction between “right” and “just,” since “rightness” can mean both rectitudo and justitia. […] One of the most important debates in English-language moral and political philosophy concerns the relations between right and good (in French, between le juste and le bien), whence the exemplary difficulties raised by this quotation from Michael Sandel: “The priority of the right means, first, that individual rights cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the general good (in this it opposes utilitarianism), and, second, that the principles of justice that specify these rights cannot be premised on any particular vision of the good life. (Liberalism and the Limits of Justice)”.” The entries of the dictionnary displayed in three words ‘right, just and good’, show the difficulty of applying one and same justice in all European countries when people listen and speak with the same words about different concepts. Continue reading