One of the important considerations in doing ancient philosophy, especially if one is not proficient in ancient Greek, is the selection of trustworthy and accurate translations of the texts one will encounter. Thankfully, we are seeing today another surge in excellent translations of Plato and Aristotle by various translators. I want here to recommend five texts translated by Joe Sachs of St. John’s College (Annapolis). All the texts strive for understandability while also being faithful to the linguistics of the original. Sachs’ own genius is his ability to bypass the accumulated Aristotelian technical vocabulary which we in the West have inherited through Latin (e. g., substance, actuality, virtue, etc.), and get back to the sort of common everyday words that Aristotle himself used. So, for energeia, translated traditionally into English via Latin as “actuality,” or “activity,” Sachs translates as “being-at-work.” This is a cumbersome rendering, to be sure, but it more carefully articulates Aristotle’s actual meaning. (So, too, for entelecheia, which Sachs translates as an unwieldy, but clearer “being-at-work-staying-itself.”) My only quibble, and it’s Sachs’ own quibble, is his translation of ousia, as “thinghood.” For Sachs, ugly as he admits this is, it is the best translation he can think of. And he’s being doing this for thirty years.
So, here are the seminal Sachs translations of Aristotle’s major works:
Last year Sachs jumped into Platonic territory. Although I’ve not read the translation, and Plato’s vocabularly is significantly different than Aristotle’s, still I’m excited to read this Platonic text on knowing and knowledge.