Chapters 5 and 6
A Moral Witness
How is Margalit's text an example of ethical reasoning? What kind of ethical reasoning does he claim to practice? (e. g. vs. i. e., argument by examples rather than elaborated definitions)
What is a moral witness, according to Margalit? (can testify to suffering and evil on the basis of first-hand experience) Why is one needed?
How is a moral witness distinguished from a witness who is moral, a journalist, or a political witness? (168) What counterexamples does he propose? (person who identifies with suffering but didn't in fact witness it) How does he describe the case of those motivated to survive suffering in order to witness?
What is the nature of "hope," as Margalit defines it?
How does he argue is our relationship to observation? Do we obtain information and knowledge entirely through direct observation? (180-81)
How does he distinguish between moral and ethical witnessing? (182 a moral witness should in fact be an ethical one, that is, witnessing to his own suffering but as part of a larger pattern)
What should be the moral witness's relationship to other victims? (thick relationships; these are "ethical")
Forgiving and Forgetting
What does Margalit state is the source of humanistic ethics? (human beings are the source of ethical content) Are human beings a sufficient source of ethical content, according to Margalit? (no, 184)
What constitutes the difference between forgiving and forgetting? What religious ideas does he cite as a basis for ideas of forgiving? (blotting out one's sins in the book of life, washing off a strain)
What are some metaphors or models for forgiveness? (sharing or bearing a burden, 186, canceling a debt, 191) Is the scapegoat an adequate metaphor for the bearing of a burden of sin? Why do you think Margalit objects to it? (goat not usually associated with innocence, instead represents radical otherness, 188, which can readily be falsely blamed; fails both cognitive and emotive tests of appropriateness) What does Wittgenstein find objectionable in this metaphor? (embodies a superstition, since placing a symbolic weight on a goat doesn't really take away sin, 187)
What characterizes the blotting-out model of forgiveness, as opposed to the covering up? (189, entails forgetting the sin and the person who has sinned, 189)
How does Margalit define forgiveness? (overcoming anger and vengefulness as a result of a conscious decision to do so, 192; could also occur from forgetfulness) If one makes a conscious decision to overcome anger and to forgive, will this encourage forgetting? (yes, one will brood less on the matter)
If forgiveness is a duty, can it be a gift? (192) What are the grounds of forgiveness according to the New Testament? (all men have sinned, 194) According to Maimonides, how should one forgive? (with a sincere mind and willing spirit, 194)
What does Margalit note are the features of a gift? (195, cements social relations, not economic in its goals, often decorative) How does forgiveness differ from a gift? (196, intended to restore rather than strengthen a relationship) What are some parallels? (a justification is needed for rejecting a gift or a plea for forgiveness, 196)
What is superior about the covering-up model, as opposed to the blotting out one? (doesn't require forgetting what one cannot forget, accepting a view that the past can be undone; morally, conceptually, and psychologically superior, 197) What does this entail in practical behavior? (acting in good faith as though the event hadn't happened, restoring goodwill, nonetheless the past remains, as the mark of Cain)
Are there conditions which are necessary for this to happen? (remorse offers a nonmagical way of undoing the past, 199)
Can forgetting be intentional? How does the analogy of the jury who have been asked not to use certain information in making their verdict apply here? (forgiveness is a "decision that the injury is not 'admisssible evidence,' that it is no longer a reason for action." 202)
How is forgiveness a performative act? (202) How does this differ from forgetting? (203, the latter is involuntary)
On an alternate view, how is forgiveness a change in attitude? (203) What different relationship to forgetting will this have? (forgiveness will lead to forgetting, 203) Why must forgiveness be a process? (can't be instantaneous, requires long effort, 204) Can this be voluntary? (voluntary to begin the process, cannot be ended while scar remains, 205)
What is the ideal end relationship after forgiveness? (restoration of original relationship, 205) How can these two approaches to forgiveness be blended? (206) What does Margalit advocate as forgiveness? (not forgetting the wrong but the resentment that accompanies it, 208, a covering up not blotting out)
Are gender expectations relevant to any of Margalit's concerns? (he seems to be mainly speaking of nations and cultures; in the case of women, often they are forced to gorgive, or seem to forgive; and less expression of anger is permitted to women)
Is Margalit's definition of possible forgiveness persuasive? How might it be relevant to political or international affairs? How might these principles bear on the practice of literature?
What is the relationship of the debate between his parents which begins Margalit's book and his conclusion? Does he manage to satisfy both their desires, for memory and for thinking toward the future?
Are there aspects of the prescriptions in The Ethics of Memory which parallel Freudian analysis? (by reworking trauma one is expected to lessen the power of unhappy memories over oneself, which is a bit like the "covering up" model)
Alternative cases: Is it necessary for the other party to be aware that they have committed a crime or offense? (by definition those most likely to commit such acts are the least endowed with conscience) Also, can one forgive on someone else's behalf? (e. g., can one forgive someone for having killed someone now dead?)