Forgiving the unforgivable?

Some thoughts on its aporias

  • Catalina Sagarra Martin
Keywords: Aporia of forgiveness, Performative act, Disjunction/dehumanisation, Responsability/Guilt, Insurmountable mourning


Many philosophers have already discussed forgiveness, though fewer have considered it when the object to be forgiven is part of a genocidal process, the agent a killer, and he/she who forgives a victim. Based on the aporias found by Derrida and Jankélévitch, among others, this article explores the object of forgiveness. In other words, to apprehend the present of the speech act, it makes a detour through the past. This will help to grasp the significance of forgiving within the framework of genocide, first by analysing the object of forgiveness, which is as complex as genocide is. By doing this, a detailed picture is drawn of the agent to whom forgiveness is granted, as depicting the agent is also quite complex. Because we forgive somebody for having done something, both complements of this transitive verb are rigorously explored. The paper analyses what other options some philosophers have put forward in lieu of forgiveness, the impossibility of forgiveness being acknowledged as insuperable. Finally, the paper asks if it is the victim’s role/place to forgive and if the victim can actually speak from the unsustainable situation that characterizes this speech act, albeit some encourage victims to forgive as doing so might produce some kind of potential therapeutic benefit.