John Armstrong, Coggeshall Church, Essex 1940

Forgiveness and the Unforgivable: Religion, Literature, Philosophy

Instructor: Liane Carlson
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201

What constitutes an apology? Are certain acts unforgivable? And if so, why? In this course, we’ll examine these questions in the light of both history and contemporary politics and culture. We’ll read a range of thinkers and writers, from Dostoyevski (on guilt) to Nietzsche (on resentment) 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? 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 a person 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? As we go, we’ll examine traditions, theologies, and philosophies of forgiveness across multiple times and places—in contexts as broad as social catastrophe and as specified as the individual.

Course Schedule

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


Registration Open

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