Between testimony and forgiveness: the cure

18 Aug

Paul Ricoeur’s analysis of whether forgiveness can heal ranges from memory to oblivion, but the author clarifies that “in the framework of the broader dialectic of the space of experience and the horizon of experience”, and recalls that Freud calls this “translaboration”, which means overcoming the belief that the past is closed and determined and the future is indeterminate and open.

Past facts are inerasable: we cannot undo what was done, nor make what happened not happen, but we must remember that the testimony of those who suffered the facts or who practiced them can and must be modified, depending on “our memories”.

It is not about forgiveness, or about building a new narrative, but Paul Ricoeur recalls Raymond Aron in his Introduction to the Philosophy of History, as what he calls the “retrospective illusion of fatality” and which he opposes to the historian’s obligation to transport himself to the moment of action and become contemporary with the authors.

The author sentences: “all memory is selective”, and reminds the author “if one could implement the oblivion of escape, the strategy of excuse, the task of bad faith, which makes passive-active oblivion a perverse undertaking”, then not just forget, but re-see.

The point in Ricoeur’s text where the testimony can be inserted is precisely this where he states, trying to combine forgiveness with work and mourning: “He marries one and the other. And, joining both, it brings what in itself is not work, but precisely a don”. Isn´t gift because in French (don, term used in the work of Marcel Mauss) or in Italian donno, whose translation is difficult but would be gratuity, I don’t like a gift because although it may have something divine, it is a detachment from the one who gives (forgiveness) the testimony.

Recalling the biblical Adamic myth, death, revenge and war seem natural, but it is the gift (don) and forgiveness that can turn civilization around and build peace and prosperity.

Ricoeur, P. (1967) Symbolism of Evil, Harper & Row Pub, New York: USA. (pdf)




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