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Derrida - how forgiving the forgivable is not forgiveness but amnesty and is often just condoning not forgiveness

The philosopher Derrida has some interesting thoughts on forgiveness. And scary thoughts they are.

Suppose you see forgiveness as a gift.

Derrida holds that if a gift is a gift then the giver will hide her identity and will not allow a situation where she has to be thanked. A real gift is free from all demands and takes care to avoid any risk that you might get something out of it. And you can be after a reward and not realise it. A true gift cannot appear as a gift. Even the giver must not see it as a gift. Why? Because you see something worthwhile in yourself by giving the gift. So if you do not see it as a gift then you avoid getting anything at all out of giving. You are really giving.

Derrida points out that if you are hospitable you are taking people into your place that you own and thus creating a boundary and some control over them. They are treated well but as outsiders. So for him, hospitality is a bit deceptive. It is not as welcoming as it pretends.

Do not forget that forgiveness is a form of hospitality - where the evil person is given the status of a dear trustworthy friend.

Forgiveness is to be a gift. That takes us to the next point.

Derrida holds that forgiveness is a paradox you forgive what cannot be forgiven. Anything else is not the real deal. Derrida holds that forgiveness is never completed. You have to keep forgiving the wrong done to you. It is never a once for all act.

Forgiveness that requires the other person tries to change is amnesty not forgiveness.

Derrida says that if you do not forgive you cannot be called immoral for doing so. To forgive presupposes that not forgiving is a valid moral option. You are doing what is morally acceptable whether you forgive or do not. The reason forgiveness is never a duty is because you need to forgive freely and without pressure. If forgiveness is a duty then it is a bigger duty if there is a God who commands it like the Christian God does. Thus God should be dropped. God is only a hindrance. Instead of morality being based on God, God undermines morality.

And forgiving what is forgiveable is in his thought very cheap. If an act is unforgiveable and you think it is forgiveable then you cheapen the damage done. You cheapen the wrong.

Forgiveness presupposes that some acts are so heinous they are unforgiveable. While we realise that people have to be angry with us and condemn us before they can forgive we don't want them to see us as unforgiveable even if they will forgive! 

To forgive should be a free act and how can it be unless you have the right not to forgive meaning the action is unforgiveable? If what they do is forgiveable then they do not need my forgiveness and my forgiveness does not matter.

If you calculate that an act is not bad enough to be unforgiveable then forgiving is based on a condition. "I forgive you because it is below the threshold for being unforgiveable".  It is measured. 

And if you forgive somebody for deliberately spilling a drop of tea on your couch is it really logical to say that is forgivable while if the person ate your baby alive it would not be? Both acts open the door to evil and evil is by definition a Pandora's box. The difference is only cosmetic.

If I forgive what evil you do then the evil is forgiveable. Why then did I need to forgive? Why then did the action need to be forgiven? The two questions are not the same so do not confuse them. Here is the difference.

Derrida argued that there is no value in forgiving when something is forgiveable. So you can only forgive the unforgiveable. That gives it value. You really are putting good where there is evil. He denied that if you forgive the person you must require them never to do the bad thing again.

Forgiveness only has value when it is forgiving the unforgivable. But then we have a new problem. For Derrida forgiving is a contradiction, you forgive what is not forgiveable and cannot be forgiven. There is no way out of the contradiction. If you forgive what cannot be forgiven that is a contradiction. You are either not forgiving or faking it. The unforgiveable is not forgiveable in principle. He said forgiveness is the act of forgiving the unforgiveable so forgiveness then is a contradiction.

Derrida noticed that in Christian forgiveness, the person is forgiven as well as the act. But that leads to you saying, “I forgive you but if you will not do this thing again.” Derrida says that forgiveness is forgiving the unforgiveable so there should be no condition. Derrida is clear that this is not true forgiveness at all.

Some Christians say when they forgive they forgive the bad thing somebody did and they also forgive that person. That is wrong. The act cannot be separated from the person for the person is the problem. There is only forgiving the person.

It is better to genuinely try and forgive what cannot be forgiven. You do not forgive for you cannot but the intention is totally about goodness. To argue that forgiveness is better than this intention is ridiculous. It makes a laughing stock of any attempt to make sense of right and wrong. Forgiveness can only be simulated not granted if there is no right and wrong or if you think there isn’t.

If something is unforgivable in itself and/or is unforgiveable as far as our feelings are concerned then what?  For us to see it and feel it is unforgiveable means that if we still forgive then forgiveness is a painful heroic gift.  Nobody wants to suffer to forgive and all who talk about forgiveness do it to get inner peace.  If it is agony to forgive then is the moving on worth it?  No.  And even more so when forgiveness as Derrida notes is not a one time deed but a deed spread over what could be a very long time.  It seems you would only do it for a God.  Also it is clear that most of those who say they forgive are in fact dealing with a hurt by making excuses for the perpetrator - they are condoning.  And all know how to mask this.  They are also pressured to mask it for human nature tends to disparage the doormat.

And there is the problem of how we all see and feel that many actions that are forgiveable as unforgiveable which compounds and boosts the occurrences of the problems. 

One thing for sure is real forgiveness is a rarity...or does it ever exist?  If you have to forgive for God that is harder than forgiving for man even if in principle sin is unforgiveable.  So God is a hindrance and a toxin.  And if sin is unforgiveable only God knows if you are forgiven and it could be that hardly anybody gets forgiven.

If you forgive the unforgiveable it does not change anything.  It is like painting a pink wall pink.  God’s forgiving does NOTHING. All that happens is that he changes his attitude to you and even that is a metaphor for religion says that God always has a good attitude to us no matter what we do.  No wonder we want his cheap forgiveness!   Forgiving changes nothing – acting on it makes the changes. A person can forgive and fail to act on it. If God forgives and then works on you the forgiveness did nothing.  Yet forgiveness is what is put first by believers.  They prefer to be forgiven by God than to have him fix the damage. If there is a choice they will choose forgiveness and not reform if it has to be one or the other.

A forgiveness like that looks very like condoning.  Bringing God into it makes sure of that.  Forgiveness is far more condoning then!

Evil A being unforgiveable and Evil B being unforgiveable does not mean they are equally unforgiveable.  While an act is either forgiveable or it is not, unforgivable murder is not on the same level as unforgivable words.

Sin is a religious interpretation of evil.  It is trying to create evil and thus like trying to murder God for God and evil are incompatible.  Sin A being unforgiveable and Sin B being unforgiveable does not mean they are equally unforgiveable. While a sin is either forgiveable or it is not, unforgivable blasphemy is not on the same level as unforgivable murder against a person. If evil is necessarily unforgiveable then religion is worsening the problem. It proclaims it unforgiveable to disrespect and insult God.  So instead of one evil you have two.  You have two unforgivables instead of one.  Religion makes evils that are 10% unpardonable to be 90% unpardonable. It makes actions unforgiveable when they hurt nobody and are only wrong in the religion’s head. Unforgivable sin makes forgiving a last resort. It bans trivialising forgiveness. These ideas show how abhorrent religious doctrine and devotion actually is for religion flippantly tells you to say sorry to God and all is forgiven.

Even worse the sorry makes God FORGET the sin.  God does not bury the hatchet and mark where it is laid in this case!

Now if God comes first or alone matters then it follows that if it is unforgivable if I slap a baby hard then fair enough but the offence done to God by this act is even more unforgiveable.  If sin is unforgiveable then clearly two sins can be unforgiveable with one being more unforgiveable than the other.  If sin is unforgiveable then imagine how unforgiveable it is when it attacks the one being who matters: God.  Derrida might be thinking of wrongs we do to each other and calling them unforgiveable and that is not nice but it is sheer horror if you involve God.  Obviously if evil is unforgiveable we must consider a belief that makes you intend to hurt a God even if there is none is itself unforgiveable.  It is wrong to give people a belief that creates more unforgiving for the fact remains that if there is no God and you think there is you still intend something unforgiveable by offending him.

Forgiving the unforgivable is impossible. It is a euphemism for condoning. You can only condone the unforgivable.  You cannot forgive the unforgiveable any more than you can bring back the Bible exactly as it was if it is erased from the world forever.