Translations and Adaptations

About Translation

The Digital Paul Scholten Project aims to translate Paul Scholten’s philosophical works, i.e., Algemeen Deel and the essays collected in the first two volumes of his Verzamelde Geschriften (Collected Papers).

So far, the relevant part of Algemeen Deel (first chapter, 179 pages) has been translated. Next year two of his philosophical papers from Collected Papers (VG 2 and VG 15) will be published in translation.

First choices by Editorial Board

For orientation purposes, the project’s editors read the Centre for International Legal Cooperation (Cilc) Annual Report 1995 about their approach to and projects for the English translation of Dutch legislation. Marjanne Termorshuizen-Arts, a member of the DPSP Editorial Board, had been involved in the Cilc project ‘Law Dictionary’. One of the most important recommendations for making translations was to realize a collaboration between an expert on the content of the text, a translator and a native speaker.
At the very start of the project, the DPSP Editorial Board decided that a first draft of a translated article would be put online in order to create an online opportunity for commenting on the unedited translation. Discussion was had about hiring a professional translator along with a native speaker, but it was soon concluded that there was insufficient budget for such a plan. It was agreed that two members of the board would do the translation work as volunteers: the project’s initiator, Liesbeth Huppes-Cluysenaer, and Marjanne Termorshuizen, who – as member of Centre for International Legal Cooperation– not only had experience as a translator, but had also written a thesis on developments in legal theory related to juridical semantics. Cassandra Steer, an Australian PhD student at the University of Amsterdam who had lectured for some time at the Department of General Jurisprudence, was prepared to do the language check as native speaker. And so a translation committee was formed with three experts in legal theory, two of whom also had expertise relevant to translation.


One of the most important aspects of the method chosen was that the Translation Committee would not strive for unanimity, but rather to be as transparent as possible about the passages that had given rise to differences of opinion or hesitation.

The procedure unfolded in steps. Liesbeth would first translate large chunks of text which she then sent to Cassandra, who would return the text with tracked changes to Liesbeth. Liesbeth then forwarded the text to Marjanne, with most of the tracked changes accepted, but with some remarks next to points where she disagreed with Cassandra. Marjanne then checked the whole text. Her corrections never led to further discussion. She paid special attention to the marked problems and sometimes agreed with Liesbeth that Cassandra had not fully understood the Dutch. What then remained were the actual translation problems. In these cases Liesbeth made the final decision, but would indicate in a comment that a translation problem had arisen. The Translation Committee had expected that outsiders would use the comment function to come up with alternatives, but nothing of the kind happened.

The focus on detecting translation problems rather than reaching unanimity on choices, made the collaboration fruitful and enjoyable. Because the comment function was not used, it was eventually removed. It is still possible, and people are very welcome, to send comments to the contact address of the site. Comments will be digested in personal communication by the webmaster. The comment function can be reinstalled if this should appear to be relevant.


The translation issues identified by the translation committee are now included in Comments and Annotations, which is an Appendix to the publication of the English translation in DPSP Annual, Volume 1 (2020). The few responses submitted as comments are also included. However, it should be noted that during the course of the project, the perspective on the translation has changed. In the early stages, many of the translation problems concerned the translation of legal terms and the question of how to deal with the reference to outdated legislation, no longer existing institutions and terms that are not completely equivalent in different legal cultures. Over time, the perspective shifted to the desire to avoid such problems as much as possible. In the adaptation of the original text, discussed below, all specific details of the references to positive law have been removed as much as possible. As a result, some of the translation committee’s comments became irrelevant. Comments and Annotations include only the comments made by the translation committee that remained relevant.


General Decisions by Translation Committee (TC)

The Translation Committee took as its point of departure a quotation from Scholten’s valedictory lecture in 1945 (VG 17): “Wie hetzelfde anders zegt, zegt iets anders” (saying the same thing differently means saying something different’). This meant that we attempted to translate the first chapter of Algemeen Deel as literally as possible. An additional reason for this translation-strategy was the fact that the translation would probably be primarily used as a lingua franca by readers for whom the English language is not their mother tongue. Dutch legal terms are often closer to French or German words than to English as the countries share a legal tradition that is similar in many ways.

Translated text would be divided into numbered blocks to make comparison with other translations and commentary easy. The blocks are rather arbitrarily chosen text chunks. They do not conform to the division into paragraphs made by Scholten himself. A tab indicates Scholten’s paragraph division.

One of the characteristics of Paul Scholten’s style of writing is that in many situations he avoided the use of technical terms. The Translation Committee adopted the same style and chose a solution in everyday language wherever possible.

Paul Scholten used not only italics, but also accents to underscore certain words. These accents make it possible “to hear him lecture” while reading. The Translation Committee chose to skip these accents, sometimes making a translation which gives somewhat more emphasis.

The Translation Committee followed Scholten in the use of quotation marks and italics.

The quotes in French, German or Latin have not been translated by the translation committee. Initially the plan was to make as much use as possible of existing translations of that literature. In recent years, however, Google translate has developed in such a way that (transl. Lhc) means that Google translate has been checked and edited by Liesbeth. For Latin, Google search often provides the required translation.

Adaptation of Chapter 1 of Algemeen Deel

Quite a few people in 2010 thought that it would turn out to be impossible to translate the first chapter of Algemeen Deel. Some people wondered whether the chapter might not also be too old-fashioned at several points to be meaningful to contemporary readers. They advised to translate only part of the chapter. Even in Dutch, the chapter is very ‘retro’ due to its old spelling, old grammar, references to laws and institutions which no longer exist and a use of the masculine personal pronoun, which even slightly offended our native speaker. In addition, the text also contains quotations in German, French and Latin and lacks references to literature or refers to parts of the Asser Series which can only be found in the Asser archives. All of this led in the end to the decision to adapt the Dutch text so that the English language translation would be fit to be published as a readable text for an international audience. The adapted Dutch version got a new title Algemene Methode van het Privaatrecht, translated in English as General Method of Private Law. It is possible to compare the Dutch original text with the adapted text. The adaptation of the Dutch text could give the impression that the Translation Committee and the French or Indonesian translators did not do a good translation job. The translation in English is therefore adapted too. The adaptation of the original French and Indonesian translations will be provided in the near future. It is possible to compare the French and Indonesian translations with the English translation of the original Dutch text.



Translation of Collected Papers (Verzamelde Geschriften, VG)

According to the planning of the new volume of DPSP Annual, Volume II, 2021, two new translations will be made available: Law and the Philosophy of Life (VG 2, 1915) and The Structure of Legal Science (VG 15, 1942). These two texts were our first choice because the articles in Volume I, 2020 refer to these two articles from Collected Papers.

Adaptation of original Dutch text of Collected Papers

The original Dutch texts of the Collected Papers will be adapted before they are translated. This involves not only new spelling and grammar, but also other forms of updating language and references. The first step for adaptation is to put the original Dutch text in new spelling and divide the text into blocks. After the first step the text will be posted in the Table of articles in progress. This makes it possible to refer in Volume I to the blocks of the forthcoming translation of Collected Works articles VG 2 and VG 15. VG 15 is already available in an Indonesian translation. This Indonesian translation has also been divided into blocks and posted in the Table of Articles in progress. In principle the Indonesian translation is ready to publish, but the adaptation of the original may make small adaptations of the translation necessary.


According to the planning the two adaptations of the Dutch originals and the two translations will be posted in the course of 2021. The manner of adaptation can be followed on the Dutch side of the website in the form of side by side displays of old original and new adaptation. It will be possible to compare the original Dutch text and the adapted one through this side by side presentation.

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