Theaters of forgiveness / by Philip M. Adamek
Includes bibliographical references
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Electronic version from ProQuest
The dissertation analyzes post-Holocaust conceptions of forgiveness. My guiding assumption is that the Abrahamic heritage of forgiveness is marked by two contradictory demands: first, that one forgive on certain conditions only; and second, that one forgive unconditionally. Arguing against Joram Graf Haber's speech act theory-informed attempt to de-theologize and de-historicize forgiveness, I problematize conventional etymologies of forgiveness and interrogate the recent transformations within the heritage of forgiveness over the past fifty years. Specifically, I analyze various “economies of forgiveness” that, with the exception of Hannah Arendt's and Haber's writings, were elaborated in an historical “climate” in France marked by debates over statutes of limitations for crimes against humanity.My conclusions are that, whereas Arendt's theory of human action turns forgiveness into a simple changing of one's mind over innocuous matters, Alain Gouhier casts forgiveness as a theoretical project capable of transcending human finitude. To these early and insufficient attempts to conceptualize forgiveness respond Olivier Abel, who acknowledges the imperfect nature of the limited economy but strives to maintain its healthful functioning by viewing forgiveness as a form of social compromise, and Paul Ricœur, who argues that, through the command to love one's enemies, forgiveness marks faith in an exchange that is superior to any logic of superabundance. Questioning whether these various “economies of forgiveness” respond rigorously to the aneconomic aspirations of forgiveness found within the Abrahamic heritage, I pursue implications of both Vladimir Jankélévitch's claim that, if there is forgiveness, it must remain unverifiable and Jacques Derrida's argument that it is structurally aporetic. Since Jankélévitch and Derrida both think the unconditional logic with great rigor without excluding the conditional, I differentiate between their approaches by, notably, grounding Derrida's critique of Jankélévitch's insisting on repentance as that which gives forgiveness meaning through an analysis of Jankélévitch's strenuous defense of humanistic voluntarism and, in particular, his idea of the endless oscillation between the unforgivable and unconditional forgiveness.In a final moment, I articulate Derrida's thought of unconditional forgiveness without sovereignty by exploring the limitations to thematizing forgiveness as evidenced in Richard Holloway's reading of the parable of the prodigal son.
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