AbstractsSocial Sciences

Ricoeur’s view on forgiveness from a philosophy of history perspective

by Jo-Ann Mottian

Institution: University of Johannesburg
Year: 2014
Keywords: Ricoeur, Paul; Social sciences - Philosophy; Forgiveness; Healing
Record ID: 1453443
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10210/10830


South Africa has endured many hardships; the most prominent of all is the apartheid regime and effects thereof. Almost twenty years after democracy and freedom from this system of oppression, the hurt and pain generated through the traumatic events during this period linger on. Possibly the most significant effort to overcome these effects and deal with the hurt was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC had many successful accounts of victims confronting their torturers. During these confrontations, the complete truth about an act was revealed, an apology was offered to the victims and the family of the victims, and many times, forgiveness was granted. Forgiveness that was granted was often given in order to help these victims and families of the victims move past the trauma that they experienced. However, one can ask, can victims truly promptly forgive perpetrators of severe violence and murder after hearing the complete truth and hearing the perpetrators apologise? What has happened to the hurt and pain victims experienced during the traumatic event if they have not dealt with it? Does the memory of the event not still stand out in the victims’ mind? It can be said that traumatic memories, if ignored and left unaddressed, would not only affect individuals in various areas of life, but also impact negatively on society as a whole. In all probability, the individual will remain haunted by the effects of a traumatic event and as a result, would subsequently fail to enjoy a higher quality life. If numerous individuals continue to experience persistent, unresolved or untreated after-effects of trauma, one can imagine a society that has become a populace of mourning, anxious, moping and mistrustful citizens. Hence it can be said that there appears to be a need in society at large to address the issue of traumatic memories. These may include, memories associated with typical traumatic events such as rape or murder, and for the purposes of this study in particular, mass murder, for example the Holocaust or severe abuse committed against a group of individuals based on ethnicity and/or race, for example the apartheid system. In defining the term ‘trauma’ it is understood to be a violation against an individual, in the form of an injury. I believe that it is acceptable to state that physical trauma will necessitate psychological trauma. Versteeg (2012:115) has aptly described trauma as follows: It is – literally- a wound: an injury to living tissue, caused by a cut, blow or other impact, typically one in which the skin is cut or broken.