The question of the contract is a secondary question that has come in the awareness of the fact that there are things to take account of – that these things as such are given to begin with. That the question is impossible to answer once for all may be acknowledged in considering the fact that the conception of the contract as the ground of that which is will necessarily exclude that it be given as a thing to take account of. Rather it is thought of as already left behind by the awareness of the presence of the debt that it has grounded – which includes this very thought about the contract.

  1. The translation of the contract from one language to the next is an internal disposition of the contract to extend itself to any other region. There is not a single language that exclusively precedes its operation, but a limitless potential to express itself in language, and the languages in which it is expressed are untranslatable between them. Thus from world to world the words that would refer to the phenomena that presuppose the terms are not equatable constructions, and so cannot be transferred from any one to any other, unless it be by losing their significance – but the contract will allow for the expression of its terms in any language. It follows that there is no one authoritative translation to depend on.

  2. The translation of a phrase that is in one world to the language of another is a problem that appears to have not only no solution, but no meaning to begin with. For the presence of the sentence in the one world is already in the language of the other, and the one who would translate already reads it in the language of their world. There is only a variety of ways in which this language may be said, and but one world for it to speak of. The variety of ways however cannot be prescribed in such a way as to allow for a description of the language in itself as something immanent to all that may be said, for the language is a language only in and of examples that are said. The most relevant examples will appear as foreign language, and particular translations of the contract.

  3. The extension of a single spoken language to communicate the meaning of the contract presupposes a fixation of the terms by which its words are said to signify to others. The significance of that which may be said however happens by translation.

  4. The syntax of a world allows for differentiation of the things within that world. That its rules cannot be stated in advance, but are revealed in the unique enunciations that are followed by unique enunciations, means that language is a transient phenomenon that cannot be acquired for once and all. These unique enunciations may be followed to the point that they describe another language, in which that which has been said is said diversely, or cannot be said at all.

  5. Notwithstanding the impossible translation from one language to another one may recognise a kind of analogical relation that takes place between the versions of the contract. This relation is not seen in any version, but between them gives a fleeting indication of the way in which it functions to allow for its translation. This relation would appear to be the essence of the contract – though perhaps in just the version we have hold of.

  6. One translation of the text provides a secondary reading that relates to that outside the text to start with. That the language is another also means that what it speaks of is completely unrelated to the immanent concern of a first version. Though that version may be seen as the original to which all those that follow must refer, it was only a translation to improve on. There are only other versions of a text that leaves no visible remainder to return to.

  7. The translation in a world has no original to which to be compared with any other single version. It may however be assumed that closer versions of the text may be arrived at in the future. The task is to continue to translate into as many foreign languages as any single life could hope to learn. Though an adequate translation be impossible to reach, a range of versions will enable one to recognise how limited a single one must be. It is not the end result, but the attempt that will be counted.

Christopher Clifton lives in Australia. His treatise Of the Contract is published by Punctum Books.