Guest lecture by Andrew Chesterman (University of Helsinki)
"The significance of doubt in research methodology"
27 October 2021 at 16.15-18.00
Place: Ülikooli 18, room 140
About the lecture:
What can we know for sure? Plato defined knowledge as “justified true belief”, but how much justification is needed, and how do we know what is true? When is doubt justified? The talk argues for an epistemological position of sceptical optimism, in which doubt is central but also allows for progress towards greater understanding.
Translation Studies shows signs of an epistemological split concerning the status of doubt. On one hand, empirical research has traditionally made use of a number of ways of embedding doubt in its methodology and expressing it in its publications: for instance it makes explicit use of various kinds of hypotheses, takes account of probability in quantitative research, recommends replication studies, and usually inserts linguistic hedges (markers of epistemic modality) into its claims and conclusions. On the other hand, purely conceptual research (postmodern, phenomenological) often seems to lack such indicators of doubt. This split will be illustrated by contrasting some texts by Anthony Pym (in the empirical corner) with aspects of a classic essay by Walter Benjamin (in the other corner). I find the split worrying, because I value the concept of doubt.
Andrew Chesterman was born in England but moved to Finland in 1968 and has been based there ever since, mainly at the University of Helsinki, where his main subjects have been English and translation theory. In 2010 he retired from his post as professor of multilingual communication, but continues to be active in Translation Studies, refereeing and writing. His main research interests have been in contrastive analysis; translation theory, norms, universals, and ethics; and research methodology. His most recent book is Reflections on Translation Theory. Selected papers 1993–2014 (Benjamins, 2017). He was CETRA Professor in 1999 (KU Leuven, Belgium).