John Armstrong, Coggeshall Church, Essex 1940

Forgiveness and the Unforgivable: Religion, Literature, Philosophy

Instructor: Liane Carlson
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #308
Brooklyn, NY 11201

What constitutes an apology? Are certain kinds of acts unforgivable—and, if so, why? Who, indeed, has the power to forgive? In this course, we’ll set these questions in historical context, beginning with Bishop Joseph Butler’s eighteenth-century sermons, then exploring discussions of resentment in Nietzsche and guilt in Dostoyevski, before turning to post-Holocaust literature on the unforgivable by Jean Améry, Vladimir Jankélévitch and others. In reading these texts, we will explore some of the following questions: What is forgiveness? Are there unforgivable acts and, if so, what? Is forgiveness an act of the body or an act of the will? Is forgiveness strictly an individualistic act, or can it be bestowed collectively as well? Could ritualistically deciding never to forgive give similar solace as forgiving? Finally, are post-Holocaust thinkers like Jean Améry correct that the refusal to forgive can be its own ethical stance, rather than a failure to attain the virtue of forgiveness?

Course Schedule

Sunday, 2:00-5:00pm
March 08 — March 29, 2020
4 weeks


Registration Open

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