Forgive and Not Forget

The Ethics of Forgiveness


Yotam Benziman

Publisher Van Leer Institute Press and Hakibbutz Hameuchad
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication 2008
Series Theory in Context Series

Forgiveness is possible only where a wrong has been done. The greater the wrong, the greater the forgiveness that is required, but precisely then forgiveness is less justified, because the harm is greater. Forgiveness is therefore a paradoxical concept. How is it possible to resolve this paradox?

The main thesis of Forgive and Not Forget: The Ethics of Forgiveness is that total forgiveness is a dialogic process in which the perpetrator and the victim bear the memory of the wrong together and weave it into the fabric of their lives, without erasing the blame of one of them and the scars left on the psyche of the other. This is an unusual analysis of the concept of forgiveness, and it is juxtaposed against the accepted philosophical view that combines forgiveness with forgetting.

The book deals, inter alia, with public apologies, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the memory of the Holocaust, the bearing of sin, penance and bitterness, forgiveness of self and divine forgiveness, the unforgivable and the idea of vengeance, love and betrayal. This is a philosophical book, but a considerable part of it is devoted to the analysis of texts, from the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud, from the New Testament and literature, from the writings of sociologists and psychologists, and articles from the daily press; after all, philosophical issues arise not only from philosophical writings but also from the everyday discourses of human beings.

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