Forgiveness—either needing or wanting to be forgiven, or trying to forgive another—is a near-universal experience and one of endless fascination. This volume mines the work of phenomenologists and the methods of phenomenology to extend and deepen our understanding of these complex experiences.
Interest in the phenomenon of forgiveness continues to grow, as the question of forgiveness for past injustices has become a global issue. Phenomenologists have a special contribution to make to the discussion of forgiveness, both because of the capacity to describe and analyse the richness of first-person experiences of forgiving and being forgiven, and because many of the twentieth-century phenomenologists, such as Arendt, Beauvoir, Fanon, Husserl, Levinas, Ricoeur, Sartre, and Stein, experienced first-hand the trials of war, detention, violence, exile and occupation that tested their power to forgive.
Phenomenology and Forgiveness addresses questions such as whether it is only ethical to forgive in response to apologies and expressions of remorse or whether forgiveness is a gift, whether some acts are unforgiveable, the role of forgiveness in political life, and whether it is possible to forgive ourselves.
Introduction: Marguerite La Caze, Situating Forgiveness Within Phenomenology
Part I: Experiences of Forgiveness
- Shannon Hoff, The Right and the Righteous: Hegel on Confession, Forgiveness, and the Necessary Imperfection of Political Action
- Nicolas de Warren, For the Love of the World: Redemption and Forgiveness in Arendt
- Simone Drichel, “A Forgiveness that Remakes the World”: Trauma, Vulnerability and Forgiveness in the Work of Emmanuel Levinas
- Peter Banki, Hyper-Ethical Forgiveness and the Inexpiable
Part II: Paradoxes of Forgiveness
- Gaëlle Fiasse, Forgiveness in Ricœur
- Jennifer Ang, Self-Forgiveness in the Gray Zone
- Antonio Calcagno, Can a Community Forgive? Edith Stein on the Lived Experience of Communal Forgiveness
- Geoffrey Adelsberg, Collective Forgiveness in the Context of Ongoing Harms
Part III: Ethics and Politics of Forgiveness
- Matthew Sharpe, Camus and Forgiveness: After the Fall
- Daniel Brennan, Václav Havel's Call for Forgiveness
- Karen Pagani, Toward a Heideggerian Approach to the Problem of Political Forgiveness, or The Dignity of a Question
- Ann V. Murphy, Phenomenology, Crisis, and Repair
Marguerite La Caze is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her publications include Wonder and Generosity: Their Role in Ethics and Politics, (2013) The Analytic Imaginary (2002), Integrity and the Fragile Self, with Damian Cox and Michael Levine (2003) and articles on a range of European philosophers.
The diverse essays comprising Phenomenology and Forgiveness together form a rich resource for anyone who wants to explore the intellectual and moral challenges encapsulated in the idea of forgiveness, whether they are committed to phenomenology or not. At the same time, as Ann V. Murphy argues in the book's final chapter, there is a kind of synergy between forgiveness and phenomenology. It is on this basis that one can also say that the book shows the potential phenomenology still harbors for remaking the world.
At its best, philosophy enables us to understand basic dynamics of human existence in a new way. Such is the contribution of these essays, which show how problems of forgiveness are fundamentally embedded in interpersonal relations, in the possibilities and challenges for education, recognition, respect and solidarity. This timely volume engages with phenomenological reflections on the experience of harms and the possibility of forgiveness in concrete historical situations, including the extreme violence of the Holocaust, colonialism, and totalitarianism. In exploring the experiences, paradoxes, ethics and politics of forgiveness, these essays provide an excellent overview of phenomenological and existential philosophy, including recent discussions of critical phenomenology as a practice of liberation.
Phenomenology is often falsely accused of detailed abstraction detached from critical social engagement. This book demonstrates the opposite, as its pages are ripe with seasoned insight that forces the steady hand of philosophical engagement back into the messy reality of the everyday. Yet it reaches as deep as it does wide into the well of phenomenological reflection, retrieving for its readers innumerable insights into some contemporary matrixes of opposition germane to the topic of forgiveness: exile and amnesty, alienation and solidarity, trauma and grace, impunity and punishment, shame and innocence, justice and permissiveness, truth and moral ambiguity. With careful engagements in the lives of especially 20th century thinkers steeped in times of atrocious wars, the book leads its readers to see that phenomenology's struggles with death and rebirth, and with the hope for new beginnings in the plasticity of consciousness, are in a certain sense also struggles with the courage, ambivalence, or rejection of forgiveness itself.
The writers’ analyses of trauma and conflict remind us that forgiveness is not a straightforward concept by directing our attention to situations where forgiveness’ limits are tested. Second, the focus on renewal and futurity highlights the important point that forgiveness is rarely an end in itself; rather, it is a pathway towards revitalised relationships and socio-political advancement. Overall, the volume provides an insightful, nuanced and frank exploration of forgiveness and was a pleasure to read.
- Rhonda Siu, Researcher, University of New South Wales, Australia.