As far as a term being untranslatable, to me this does not seem so miraculous a phenomenon, such as would differentiate it from other matters of the intellect as they relate to the rest of nature and our perception of reality.
Just as the intellect carves out of the universe a discrete set of atoms, which I vaguely understand to form the pen I am holding, the room around me and the body of water I happen to be laying in. So too does the intellect carve out for me vague concepts such as: mind, understanding, thought and of intellect itself.
There is, or should I say there was a term that described this operation of the intellect. Moreover it endeavoured to describe the extra-physical stuff, the essence of being which transcended substance and the presence of which differentiated the living from the dead – namely ‘nous’.
The term ‘nous’, is an ancient philosophical concept. One that through the process of contemporary thought we cannot understand directly, but only through indirect analogy.
We do this through the concatenation of terms which we imagine to be similar. Hence we describe ‘nous’ as a term not the same as, but not dissimilar from: mind, understanding, thought, intellect or soul.
The term ‘nous’ is not interchangeable with any particular term, although through this string of terms we hope to mingle their vagueness and glimpse the shadow of a dead concept, brought fractionally to life, hardly remembered, unparseable by the intellect and only partly implied by context.
I imagine that there is a great war of concepts that rages on a plain, of which we form only a passive part. They are fighting and striving for dominance in our thoughts and survival through our exchanges. A struggle which is impelled by means beyond conception, but a struggle no less mirrored in us and the rest of nature.
No longer can ‘nous’ through the operation of the intellect become real – it is unintelligible, as a result so too is in untranslatable.