|About the Book|
This dissertation examines attempts that were made by Voltaire, Rousseau, Stael and others to provide an account of forgiveness that would be consistent with the rational humanism they had embraced and thus wholly divorced from Christian models. InMoreThis dissertation examines attempts that were made by Voltaire, Rousseau, Stael and others to provide an account of forgiveness that would be consistent with the rational humanism they had embraced and thus wholly divorced from Christian models. In so doing, it provides a more nuanced understanding of a peculiar situation in which a concept proved to be incompatible with a specific communicative systems vocabulary but could not be abandoned as a real human possibility for both ideological and practical reasons. This dissertation thus reads forgiveness as a concept that proved to be beyond the limits of what the rational humanism of the French Enlightenment could explain.-One of the overarching aims of the dissertation is to contest the widely accepted notion that confusion regarding the concept of forgiveness during the French Enlightenment was the result of the Encyclopedists tendency to maintain the model of conciliatory action that they had inherited from Christianity while simultaneously discrediting the very tradition that had provided it. The fact that the French Enlightenments appraisal of Christian models of forgiveness Was overwhelmingly negative does not generate debate here. Further, I do not take issue with the subsequent claim that as a result of what was a major methodological shift in philosophical inquiry, Christian understandings of conciliatory action lost credibility within the secular and even religious realms. Nevertheless, what this dissertation challenges is the attendant conclusion that the resultant discursive crisis regarding forgiveness in secular thought was characterized by the systematic and illegitimate appropriation of Christian concepts by non-Christian and, or anti-Christian thinkers. In point or fact, the great difficulty in describing forgiveness during this period must he regarded as having been largely symptomatic of much more general philosophical problems that were inherent to the methodology that characterized French Enlightenment moral discourse. They included: confusion as to the respective roles of reason and sentiment to human moral impulse- lack or certitude as to the meaning of guilt and its role in the bestowal of forgiveness, a tenuous distinction between the public and private spheres within moral discourse, and it follows, the acceptable actions that could be performed within each.