I'm writing an analytical summary on Meditation II of Descartes from the compendium we have been given at school. We have been told to use this as our main source. Nevertheless, there is this specific part in section 12 of that meditation which I don't quite agree with:

[...] something extended, flexible and movable.

As per Marleen Rozemond in Descartes' Dualism [Source] in page 93, this is a poor translation.

The reason I looked this up was because the word didn't quite fit the context, and then I saw other people had translated it as mutable, which is also a correct translation for the french/latin word.

Complaining about the poor translation in the summary makes little sense to me, as it's not part of the context, and I have a limitation of 600 words to care about. Nevertheless, I am citing from the source of a document which uses the "movable" word instead of the "mutable" word.

How should I approach this? Should I make a postdata explaining why I have done what I did?

For reference, I am using the APA referencing style.

  • 1
    I'm giving you bonus points.
    – Strawberry
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:00

3 Answers 3



[...] something extended, flexible and [mutable].

You might like to elaborate in a footnote, e.g.,

The compendium poorly translates original word as movable, but mutable is more appropriate, as noted by Marleen Rozemond in "Descartes' Dualism," page 93.

(Depending on the style, you might like to replace in "Descartes' Dualism," page 93 with a citation.)


I ended up adding a footnote to the page, with a numeric mark. In this, I referenced the source which explained why it makes more sense to change the words.

  • 41
    A footnote is a good idea, you do need to explain. You might also want to quote the text as "something extended, flexible and [mutable]" where the square brackets indicate an editorial change, i.e. something that was not in the original text.
    – Ben Bolker
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 0:24
  • 4
    @BenBolker The footnote in this case should also cite the original French/Latin text, rather than just the translation, so you can justify your re-translation of it. Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 20:45
  • An alternative would be to write (sic) movable and add the correct term with an explanation in the footnote. This keeps the text practically identical, only adding the sic warning that the original text contains an error while also providing the correct term. Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 11:59
  • @GiacomoAlzetta: I think it would be more usual in English to write movable (sic). But I'm not sure that sic is appropriate in this case. A footnote is better all round.
    – TonyK
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 14:33

To preserve a comment made by Ben Bolker as an answer, since comments should not be used as answers and can get deleted at any moment:

If you want to make an editorial change to a direct quote because you want to shorten something or fix a dodgy translation, the word(s) you change should be put between [square brackets]. This is to indicate that this is a deliberate change you made to the original text.

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