Monday, December 11, 2006

the Problem with Forgiveness

I was reading a book called Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida that asks two highly divergent philosophers what they thought of the September 11 attacks just a few months after they happened. Habermas has a highly political bent to his philosophy while Derrida likes to see what's causing things to happen.

Derrida has an interesting distinction between conditional and unconditional forgiveness (the latter he calls impossible forgiveness - more below). Conditional forgiveness is the "I forgive you / there are consequences" whereas unconditional forgiveness is "I forgive you and there are no consequences to your actions."

On page 143, After weaving a few threads together, Derrida basically says unconditional forgiveness is impossible forgiveness (at the very minimum, we carry the pain/scar of the episode where one autonomous human destroys the other's autonomy by taking over some aspect of their life: physical striking, emotional striking, being neglected, etc.).

It's a brilliant piece that basically deconstructs unconditional-forgiveness so that it is impossible to do while still maintaining one's autonomy (seen, for example, in Democracy wherein the individual has the right to be oneself and not "puppeted" by another).

Beautiful! Saying it another way: without an outside force, unconditional forgiveness is impossible! If one believes individuals are responsible for themselves, then unconditional forgiveness will never happen among humans. [Note: I do not fully subscribe to 100% individual responsibility, but I am gathering most people do]

But with Children of God, we DO have an outside "Force" that gives us the ability to have Unconditional Forgiveness. Further, "God's autonomy" does not have to be questioned in that He is self-autonomous (vs. created).

It's a pretty lame book, but I really like how Derrida paints us all into a corner: without direct activity by God Himself, no one will ever experience what we all so desperately desire: unconditional forgiveness! Notice, without unconditional forgiveness, there will never be unconditional love.

No comments: