More than two decades have passed since Jonathan Bennett asserted that “the majority of our 200-level students cannot read Locke, Berkeley, or Hume in the original.”1 Although Berkeley writes elegant prose, there are certainly anachronisms (“embrangled” being a perennial favorite) and sentence constructions unfamiliar to contemporary readers.

Bennett's own solution was to translate the moderns into contemporary prose. The hue and cry such a move raised was predicted by Bennett himself: isn't this spoon-feeding our students? Isn't acquiring the ability to read a challenging text worth the extra effort they must go to?

The perfectly apt reply is that too few students will go to this extra effort. Still, even those sympathetic to Bennett's position may balk at the idea of flatly rewriting these texts. Doing so inevitably means the translator is deciding crucial interpretive questions, often without giving the reader sufficient notice...

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