Apercevoir, perceptio and perception: Descartes and the problem of self-translation


The paper explains the contextual discrepancy between the grammatically related terms apercevoir/percevoir/percipere, aperception/perception, as well as perceptio/perception in French philosophical vocabulary of the mid-17th century. Bilingual Descartes’s philosophy is a peculiar testing area for changing the traditional meanings of these terms. In the Latin texts of Cartesius the word percipere and the noun perceptio denote, correspondingly, the process and the result of perception. However, the difficulty appeared during the preparation of the French texts of Descartes’s Latin works, since percevoir/perception, the natural French corres-pondents for percipere/perceptio, did not have the epistemological connotations and denoted «getting, collecting» (money, taxes etc.). Therefore Descartes chose for situational correspondents of percipere a number of French verbs with similar meaning (concevoir, connaître etc), sometimes apercevoir («notice») and never percevoir. For the noun perceptio he selected notion, connaissance and very rarely perception in the new epistemological meaning «perception», which was pretty difficult to comprehend for the French-speaking milieu of those days. As to the term aperception, it is totally artificial, and it was suggested by Leibniz in 1714 in order to denote the act of conscious perception.

Author Biography

Oleg Khoma, Vinnytsia National Technical University
Doctor of sciences in philosophy, Professor, Head of the Department of Philosophy


Augustin. (1938). Les Confessions. (J. Trabucco, Ed.). Paris: Garnier frères.

Descartes, R. (1996). Œuvres, 11 vol. (C. Adam, & P. Tannery, Éds.). Paris: Vrin.

Leibniz, G. W. (2004). Discours de métaphysique; (suivi de) Monadologie: et autres textes. (M. Fichant, Éd.). Paris: Gallimard.
How to Cite
Khoma, O. (2012). Apercevoir, perceptio and perception: Descartes and the problem of self-translation. Sententiae, 27(2), 205-207. https://doi.org/10.22240/sent27.02.205