Forgiveness and the unforgivable

Jacques Derrida’s On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness | Photo: Jonathan VanAntwerpen

“In order to approach now the very concept of forgiveness, logic and common sense agree for once with the paradox: it is necessary, it seems to me, to begin from the fact that, yes, there is the unforgivable. Is this not, in truth, the only thing to forgive? The only thing that calls for forgiveness? If one is only prepared to forgive what appears forgivable, what the church calls ‘venial sin’, then the very idea of forgiveness would disappear. If there is something to forgive, it would be what in religious language is called mortal sin, the worst, the unforgivable crime or harm. From which comes the aporia, which can be described in its dry and implacable formality, without mercy: forgiveness forgives only the unforgivable.”

from Jacques Derrida’s On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness

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Jonathan VanAntwerpen is a program director at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC-Berkeley.

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Jonathan VanAntwerpen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen is a program director at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC-Berkeley.

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