Vladimir Jankélévitch: The Time of Forgiveness

Vladimir Jankélévitch: The Time of Forgiveness

Vladimir Jankélévitch: The Time of Forgiveness

Vladimir Jankélévitch: The Time of Forgiveness

Synopsis

Vladimir Jankelevitch: The Time of Forgiveness traces the reflections of the French philosopher and musicologist Vladimir Jankelevitch on the conditions and temporality of forgiveness in relation to creation, history, and memory. The author demonstrates the influence of Jewish and Christian thought on Jankelevitch's philosophy and compares his ideas about the gift character of forgiveness, the role of retributive emotions in conceptions of justice, and the limits of reason with those of Aristotle, Butler, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Scheler, Arendt, Derrida, Levinas, and Ricoeur.
The Shoah was the pivotal historical event in Jankelevitch's life. As this book shows, Jankelevitch's question "Is forgiveness possible as a response to evil?" remains a potent philosophical conundrum today. Paradoxically, for Jankelevitch, evil is both the impetus and the obstacle to forgiveness.

Excerpt

There is a time of forgiveness. Such a time may arise when the acuteness of the pain stemming from a personal or moral injury has abated, when a relationship that is dear outweighs the hurt of an offense, or when a decision is made to put an end to the cycles of violence and revenge. In a grammatical analogy, forgiveness may be said to be like a period, marking an end— an end to feelings of rancor and resentment toward another. This pointed end gives way to a new beginning, and ideally, this new beginning allows for the parties involved in strife to renew their relationship under the sign of reconciliation. The renewal of relationships may entail the restoration of a previous relation fractured by betrayal, or it may entail a new relationship that does not restoratively return to a previous condition but rather establishes open possibilities in positive directions. In a moral framework, the time of forgiveness asks about the time for forgiveness. It asks if the time to forgive is now; it asks whether I should forgive the other person and whether I can forgive the other person.

Through an equivocation of the genitives, the time of forgiveness equally inquires into the temporal structure of the act of forgiveness. If forgiveness potentially ends embitterment and embattlement and opens onto new possibilities, it is fundamentally positioned between the past and the future. In fact, it marks the qualitative transition from the one to the other. As a rupture of what has been, it allows something new to emerge. It breaks with the past and brings forth the future, announcing a fresh start for both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. It thus releases one from . . .

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