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Before Forgiveness : The Origins of a Moral Idea - David Konstan

Before Forgiveness

The Origins of a Moral Idea

Hardcover Published: 9th August 2010
ISBN: 9780521199407
Number Of Pages: 206

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In this book, David Konstan argues that the modern concept of interpersonal forgiveness, in the full sense of the term, did not exist in ancient Greece and Rome. Even more startlingly, it is not fully present in the Hebrew Bible, nor in the New Testament or in the early Jewish and Christian commentaries on the Holy Scriptures. It would still be centuries - many centuries - before the idea of interpersonal forgiveness, with its accompanying ideas of apology, remorse, and a change of heart on the part of the wrongdoer, would emerge. For all its vast importance today in religion, law, politics and psychotherapy, interpersonal forgiveness is a creation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the Christian concept of divine forgiveness was fully secularized. Forgiveness was God's province and it took a revolution in thought to bring it to earth and make it a human trait.

Reviews of the hardback: 'Konstan's book is one of those studies that increases the reader's puzzlement and thus makes one seriously reflect on the subject-matter in question ... Konstan's book is an indispensable survey for anyone dealing with ancient ethics, not least because of the wide range of texts it introduces and discusses. It can be seen as both an interesting and challenging contribution to contemporary discussion of the ancient inspiration for modern forms of virtue ethics.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review
'This volume makes for fascinating reading and is a remarkable scholarly achievement.' Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
'... this is a thought-provoking work. The author is at his best in summarizing contemporary philosophical analysis of forgiveness as a concept, and in disabusing modern readers of reading 'forgiveness' into ancient texts.' Choice
'This book is nothing less than brilliant. Every one of its chapters contains a startlingly unexpected message, and the range of the book as a whole is enormous. At every point, David Konstan makes one think philosophically about different concepts and hence about the concept of forgiveness itself. The philosophical insight he provides is based on his perceptivity about an incredible range of texts.' Richard Sorabji, University of Oxford
'Konstan's magisterial grasp of the relevant texts and thinkers from the ancient Greek and Roman periods through early Christian and Judaic sources to the Church Fathers is extraordinary. Contemporary discussions of forgiveness often make a number of unexamined assumptions about the historical sources of this crucial moral idea ... It turns out, in Konstan's view, that the modern notion of interpersonal forgiveness - and with it a supporting web of ideas about morality, the emotions, and the self - is of quite recent vintage. Konstan also sheds light on crucial modern treatments of the idea such as those found in Shakespeare, Moliere, Butler, Kant, and Derrida, among others. His remarkable book will challenge readers to rethink their assumptions, and therefore to sharpen their answer to the much-debated question - what is forgiveness? - that lies at the heart of his inquiry.' Charles L. Griswold, Boston University
"David Konstan's superb book is the first comprehensive and critical examination of the early history of Western ideas of forgiveness. Konstan's magisterial grasp of the relevant texts and thinkers from the ancient Greek and Roman periods through early Christian and Judaic sources to the Church Fathers is extraordinary. Contemporary discussions of forgiveness often make a number of unexamined assumptions about the historical sources of this crucial moral idea, and these influence how it is understood. It turns out, in Konstan's view, that the modern notion of interpersonal forgiveness - and with it a supporting web of ideas about morality, the emotions, and the self - is of quite recent vintage. Konstan also sheds light on crucial modern treatments of the idea such as those found in Shakespeare, Moliere, Butler, Kant, and Derrida, among others. His remarkable book will challenge readers to rethink their assumptions, and therefore to sharpen their answer to the much-debated question - what is forgiveness? - that lies at the heart of his inquiry." - Charles L. Griswold, Boston University
"This book is nothing less than brilliant. Every one of its chapters contains a startlingly unexpected message, and the range of the book as a whole is enormous. At every point, David Konstan makes one think philosophically about different concepts and hence about the concept of forgiveness itself. The philosophical insight he provides is based on his perceptivity about an incredible range of texts." --Richard Sorabji, King's College, London and New York University
"...this is a thought-provoking work. The author is at his best in summarizing contemporary philosophical analysis of forgiveness as a concept, and in disabusing modern readers of reading "forgiveness" into ancient texts." --Choice
"The main point made in this fine monograph is that the modern notion of interpersonal forgiveness, which is quite important today in religion, law, politics, and psychotherapy, was altogether absent from the classical world, both Greek and Roman. What is more, it seems to have not been fully developed in the Bible, ancient Judaism, or early Christianity either, where the focus was more on God's forgiveness than on human, interpersonal forgiveness. In fact, according to the author, the birth of the modern concept of forgiveness should be traced back just to the past three or four centuries. ....This volume makes for fascinating reading and is a remarkable scholarly achievement. -- Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Prefacep. ix
What is Forgiveness?p. 1
Before Forgiveness: Greeks and Romans on Guilt and Innocencep. 22
Did They Forgive? Greek and Roman Narratives of Reconciliationp. 59
Divine Absolution: The Hebrew and Christian Biblesp. 91
Humility and Repentance: The Church Fathersp. 125
Enter Forgiveness: The Self Transformedp. 146
Bibliographyp. 173
Indexp. 185
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780521199407
ISBN-10: 0521199409
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 206
Published: 9th August 2010
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.7  x 1.7
Weight (kg): 0.39
Edition Number: 1