Theses Doctoral

Broken engagements: a study of forgiveness

Esparza, Daniel R.

This dissertation addresses forgiveness as a philosophical matter, understanding that whenever forgiveness happens (or even when it is talked about) unnoticed theories of selfhood and time are at play. To bring these unobserved models of time and the self to the fore, this study explores a series of commonalities and divergences in some selected works by Augustine, Kierkegaard, and Arendt. In these texts, forgiveness is understood as the gathering of a self that is scattered in time (Augustine), as present participation in an earlier redemptive moment (Kierkegaard), or as an event that resists the otherwise rectilinear, death-oriented course of human life (Arendt).Why has forgiveness been mostly ignored in Western philosophy?

What does this omission reveal about Western thought? Contemporary authors have argued for the (imperative) need to (re)think what forgiveness is, the conditions under which it (supposedly) occurs, and its relation to justice, since the inexpiable events of the past and present centuries maintain forgiveness an unresolved question.

This study rests on a fundamental intuition: that for forgiveness to pass in history nothing must be passed from the one who forgives to the one who is forgiven. To support this claim, I undertake close readings of Augustine’s Confessions, Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, and Arendt’s The Human Condition. In these works, forgiveness is understood as a paradox —it must be contained to be given (Augustine), granted-yet-not-granted (Kierkegaard), and forgotten the moment it is given, as if never given at all (Arendt). Can forgiveness be thought of as a hidden existential capacity, and not as a magnanimous display of mercy? Can we imagine forgiveness as undoing the transgression we see, and secretly engaging with the invisible?


Downloadable resources are currently unavailable for this item.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Taylor, Mark C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 22, 2022