Forgiveness: To Clarify The Concept

Instructor: Viktoras Bachmetjevas

Forgiveness plays a crucial role in any conflict resolution, whether the conflict is of a political, social, religious, or personal nature. The concept is fundamental to the Western moral tradition, which requires that we forgive those who have wronged us, even if they have gone as far as becoming our enemies. However, the collective experiences of atrocities like the Holocaust raise some valid questions about forgiveness: Is the requirement to forgive an unlimited maxim? Alternatively, should it be qualified and limited in its scope? And if so, what should its qualifications and limitations be? To answer such questions, we must have a clear understanding of the conceptual, psychological, and social framework of forgiveness.

This course outlines a conceptual framework that allows us to think of forgiveness in a qualified way. In its first part, the course focuses on the understanding of forgiveness developed by three French thinkers of the 20th century, namely Vladimir Jankelevitch, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida, all of whom developed formal understandings of forgiveness, providing conceptual clarification and demarcation from related concepts such as understanding, forgetting, clemency, etc. The second part of the course focuses on contemporary American thinker Martha Nussbaum’s take on forgiveness as a necessary therapeutic step for the wronged party. Uninterested in forgiveness as a metaphysical concept, Nussbaum argues for a pragmatic understanding: One should forgive not because it is morally good, but because it is the most reasonable thing to do. In conclusion, the course will discuss the pros and cons of these two basic approaches to forgiveness.

Maximum enrollment: 10


Monday-Saturday, 19:00-22:00 (weekdays) and 14:00-17:00 (Saturday)
25-30 April 2022
18 hours (1 week)


75003, Paris

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