Promising and forgiveness

In Patrick Hayden (ed.), Hannah Arendt: Key Concepts. Acumen Publishing. pp. 209-21 (2014)

Marguerite La Caze
University of Queensland
My paper explores the power that forgiveness and the promise, as potentialities of action, have to counter the two difficulties that follow from the possibility of being able to begin something new or what Arendt calls the ‘frailty of human affairs’: irreversibility and unpredictability. Acts of forgiving and promising are expressions of freedom and natality, as they begin human relations anew: forgiveness creates a fresh beginning after wrong-doing, and the promise initiates new political agreements. Arendt argues that forgiveness and the promise depend on plurality. They also create more favorable conditions for people to live together in the public world. Historically, forgiveness has been important in political thought in the form of pardon. In contrast, promises have been conceptualised in political thought primarily in contract theories.
Keywords Arendt  Promising  Forgiveness
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