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Forget Forgiveness

On the Benefits of Sympathy for Political Reconciliation

Nir Eisikovits

The work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has generated a great deal of interest in the role of forgiveness in politics. More specifically, it has raised the question of whether forgiveness should be a constitutive part of reconciliation processes between groups. In this paper, I argue that it should not, and that it might be both more useful and more realistic to consider something like Adam Smith’s notion of ‘sympathy’ instead. The first part examines the arguments for and against policies promoting political forgiveness. The second part suggests sympathy as an alternative. The third part considers and rejects some objections to the employment of sympathy in this context.

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Patrick Lenta

My purpose in this paper is to assess the plausibility of three claims asserted by Wilhelm Verwoerd in his book Equity, Mercy, Forgiveness: Interpreting Amnesty within the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2007) in support of the granting of amnesty by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Amnesty in this context refers to conditional amnesty: immunity from prosecution and punishment, conditional upon the full disclosure by perpetrators of the details of their wrongdoing, extended to individuals who had committed gross human rights violations between 1 May 1960 and 10 May 1994. Verwoerd rehearses several arguments that have previously been advanced in support of conditional amnesty, but his original contribution consists in asserting three claims concerning its moral status. These are that the granting of amnesty: (1) satisfies the demands of equity; (2) constitutes an act of mercy; and (3) amounts to forgiveness of perpetrators. I seek to show that, considered separately, each of these claims is false and that, asserted together, they are inconsistent.

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Returning to the Source

Revisiting Arendtian Forgiveness in the Politics of Reconciliation

Sam Grey

The idea of forgiveness is omnipresent in the transitional justice literature, yet this body of work, taken as a whole, is marked by conceptual, terminological and argumentative imprecision. Equivocation is common, glossing moral, theological, therapeutic and legal considerations, while arguments proceed from political, apolitical and even antipolitical premises. With forgiveness as a praxis linked to reconciliation processes in at least ten countries, concerns have grown over its negative implications for the relationship between the state and victims of state-authored injustices. Many of these debates reference Hannah Arendt. Drawing from a range of Arendt’s published and unpublished work, this article challenges the academic claim that forgiveness has no place in the politics of reconciliation. Through this ‘returning to the source’, it presents a promising mode of thinking about political forgiveness in contemporary Settler-colonial states.

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To Punish or to Forgive?

Responding to Dirty Hands in Politics

Cristina Roadevin

How should citizens respond to dirty-hands acts? This issue has been neglected in the theoretical literature, which has focused on the dilemma facing the politician and not on the appropriate responses of citizens. Nevertheless, dirty-hands scenarios pose a serious dilemma for the democratic citizens as well: we cannot simply condone the dirtyhanded act but should instead express our moral condemnation and disapproval. One way of doing this is through blame and punishment. However, this proposal is unsatisfactory, as dirty-hands agents commit wrongdoing through no fault of their own. I argue that we ought to make conceptual space for an idea of no-fault responsibility – and a corresponding notion of no-fault forgiveness – according to which we can hold agents to obligations without blaming them.

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Dennis Klein

This article looks at the significance of local circumstances, including direct encounters between victims and assailants, in the genocide process. In what scholars term “the micropolitical turn in the study of social violence,“ the argument here considers the encounter from the perspectives of both constituent parties. Assailants often acted before they thought, raising questions about the premise of intention and calculation that anchors the defining Article 2 in the United Nations Genocide Convention. Victims in local encounters express in their accounts a recognition of their assailants and describe what amounts to a betrayal of the trust they invested in their compatriots. Expressions of recognition in witness accounts attenuate victims' resentment and recrimination, opening a space that permitted possibilities for postgenocide reconciliation and even qualified forgiveness.

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Pity Silenced

Economies of Mercy in The Merchant of Venice

Alessandra Marzola

threatening darkness of mercantilism, as they are supposed to do, is a dubious matter. Does Portia’s famous address to the Jew’s mercy in Act IV point to the Christian ways of forgiveness and redemption from the evil/devil of usurious exploitation? Is then the

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Fatima Zahra Bessedik

suddenly goes back home to ask for forgiveness. The father, who is a well-known religious man in Iowa, forgives Jack and welcomes him home. However, Jack, although confessing his faults to the church, cannot forget his wrongdoings and remains in a spiritual

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Andrew Sanders

’. When Hamlet finally dispatches the King, Laertes greets the ‘murder’ as ‘just’ and then begs Hamlet's forgiveness for his complicity in the contorted plot to dispose of the prince during the duel. He insists that Polonius's death is also excused. Hamlet

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‘Shakespeare Had the Passion of an Arab’

The Appropriation of Shakespeare in Fadia Faqir’s Willow Trees Don’t Weep

Hussein A. Alhawamdeh

Faqir’s novel sheds light upon the Arab female identity formation in patriarchal societies. Majed Aladylah argues that Faqir’s novel tackles themes of: ‘belonging, dislocation, love, forgiveness and loss’. 1 Dallel Sarnou exposes the dehumanization of

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Graham Holderness

the Blessed Virgin ( Figure 5 ). We can think of this as a kind of payment for forgiveness, almost a bribe, since it has been built with the proceeds of usury, a kind of money laundering. In which case the distinction between spiritual and secular is