Vladimir Jankelevitch: The Time of Forgiveness

Vladimir Jankelevitch: The Time of Forgiveness

John D. Caputo series editor
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Vladimir Jankelevitch: The Time of Forgiveness
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6299-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: In the Margins
    (pp. 1-11)

    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 extraordinarily simple that...

  5. 1 First Philosophy
    (pp. 12-43)

    The title of Vladimir Jankélévitch’s first major work isPhilosophie première. Traditionally, a first philosophy provides the cornerstone on which the rest of a thinker’s philosophy is constructed either upward in the architectonics of systematic structures or outward in concentric circles extending from the initial pulse of inspiration at the epicenter. Jankélévitch is fond of citing Henri Bergson, who wrote that a philosopher of value has said only one thing and the rest of his life and work is dedicated to that single point.¹ Or more poignantly, Jankélévitch’s philosophy follows Bergson’s insight that there is “something simple, infinitely simple, so...

  6. 2 Apophatic Approaches
    (pp. 44-76)

    Forgiveness, for Vladimir Jankélévitch, is simple. It is almost nothing (presque rien). For this reason, he approaches the topic of forgiveness apophatically. As he writes, “The élan of forgiveness is so impalpable, so debatable, that it discourages all attempts at analysis.” He sees no points of contact or solid ground “in this fleeting shock, in this imperceptible flickering of charity” that would make a philosophical discourse possible. The negative method he adopts, therefore, primarily takes account of the “empirical substitutes for metaempirical forgiveness [or] the natural forms of supernatural forgiveness.” About these he has a vast amount to say.¹ To...

  7. 3 The Temporality of Human Existence and Action
    (pp. 77-92)

    Irreversibility, irrevocability, and imprescriptibility relate to each other as the natural to the ethical to the legal. In a sense, these terms represent a progression of an idea, moving from one category to another, sharpening and narrowing its scope in the procession from nature to ethics to the legal and juridical domains. The idea driving these notions is that of time or, more precisely, the temporal constitution of human affairs. Temporality forms the core of each of these terms individually and in their interrelation. Time is irreversible and subjects all things to its one-way directedness; free will and action take...

  8. 4 Translating Resentment
    (pp. 93-135)

    For Vladimir Jankélévitch, the protest against forgetting that which is irrevocable is not merely an intellectual endeavor. It entails the emotive and passionate task of justice itself. Consequently, at the limits of passion, he conceives this protest as a duty to both values and to the individuals. Values, according to Jankélévitch, are not simply to be conceded with the cold eye of rationality; they rather form the lifeblood of ethical-emotional life. His assessment of ressentiment therefore shows that the ethical life is not dispassionate. To the contrary, justice, he explains, must be a love of justice and must include a...

  9. 5 The Inexcusable and the Unforgivable
    (pp. 136-170)

    What can be excused need not be forgiven. The excuse excuses the excusable because the excuse, according to Vladimir Jankélévitch, is of the order of reason and understanding. What can be excused has grounds for excuse. Conversely, what is inexcusable exceeds the parameters of understanding and surpasses the contextualization of the misdeed. As Jankélévitch claims, sometimes a misdeed is performed as a cry for help, a cry to be understood, or even as a cry to be loved. He therefore encourages us to try to understand as much as we can understand, but he is also insistent that there are...

  10. 6 Love and Justice
    (pp. 171-207)

    For Vladimir Jankélévitch, forgiveness presents a moral dilemma. The oscillation between the unfortunate and the wicked and the oscillation between love and evil imply a dilemma that Jankélévitch maintains is insoluble. This dilemma contains within it the tension between justice and forgiveness and forces a decision within morality itself, for forgiveness and love, according to Jankélévitch, introduce an asymmetry that is at odds with the symmetry implicit in ethics and in law. This moral dilemma consequently appears as the conflict between two moralities, or, as Jankélévitch says, as the paradox of morality itself: on the one hand, the system of...

  11. 7 Repentance: Concerning Unconditionality
    (pp. 208-260)

    Our contemporary conception of repentance is inherited from a broad and multifaceted lineage, both theological and philosophical. It is Jewish, Christian, and Islamic and thus Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic, with, as Derrida emphasizes, a strong Christian Latin imprint.¹ The multiplicities of histories and their marks on language can be read from the translations of the wordrepentanceitself. The Hebrew word for repentance,teshuva, means “to return” and has its Greek cognates instrepheinandepistrephein. The Greek term that is most commonly used in ancient philosophy and in the New Testament to designate repentance, however, ismetanoia, which means...

  12. 8 What Remains
    (pp. 261-280)

    What remains of the offense after forgiveness, and what remains of the past? John Caputo succinctly captures the tension inherent in this question when he asks:

    Does not forgiveness require the remission of the irremissible past? Do we not, in forgiving, reach back into the past in order to remedy what has been done, in order to undo the harm done? … Yet the real is irremissible and, much as God would like to help, what is done is done.¹

    One common misconception of forgiveness is that it turns a blind eye to what has happened, ignoring both the offense...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 281-356)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 357-372)
  15. Index
    (pp. 373-382)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 383-388)