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‘Analytic' reading, ‘continental' text: The case of Derrida's ‘on forgiveness'

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This paper seeks to apply some of the tools of analytic philosophy to a text written by a ‘continental' philosopher, in order to evaluate the quality of its arguments. In ‘On Forgiveness', Jacques Derrida seems to be making two different claims about forgiveness. First, he claims that an act of forgiveness is only truly meaningful as forgiveness when one is forgiving the unforgivable. Second, he is also recommending that we change our understanding of the concept of forgiveness for ethical reasons. I examine three lines of argument used in the essay to support the first claim. I find each of these lines of argument problematic. Since these arguments are unconvincing, I argue that this leaves only the second claim for Derrida to defend.

Keywords: Derrida; continental philosophy; forgiveness

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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