In a post today, my longtime friend Leigh Johnson charges me with erasing her contribution and appropriating her idea of “friendly fire” in my response to Noma Arplay and Joseph Trullinger. In this post, I want to acknowledge my error and say a few things about the difference between our two conceptions of “friendly fire.” To… Continue reading Yours, Mine, and Ours: Confessing a Philosophical Theft
Too often in praise for “agonism” we tend to treat the conflicts as if they are self-justifying. Trullinger’s view is that we ought to endorse the spirit of “glad to be wrong” by being particularly welcoming to those who are unlike us, those who are most likely to find the space of rough play unwelcoming, those with whom we truly lack homonoia. True strangers are those who can offer us grounds for disagreement much stranger than mere contradiction.
On my view, human rights aren’t political conversation stoppers, they’re a prerequisite for certain kinds of political conversations at all. Indeed, human rights are so foundational to certain kinds of political conversations that many people lay claim to them even where they don’t exist so as to begin or continue a difficult political conversation.
The Donatists judged that reunion with the Catholics would entail a new domination by the crumbling Roman Empire. They refused to forgive, refused to share authority and a political world with Roman agents who claimed to want only peace but had historically engaged in political domination in the region. The question that Augustine’s letters present is this: could they forgo ‘sharing authority’ while preserving the charitable affect of dwelling in a shared world? Generally speaking charity does not demand agreement or the fusion of horizons, certainly not in the face of an unforgiveable scandal.
As I see it, the limit of forgiveness is not within our voluntary power, an act of will, but rather in developing the capacity to imagine the act that we are trying to forgive. Thus the skandalon of forgiveness is an imaginative challenge, we stumble over it when acts are unimaginable, and we overleap it when our imagination succeeds. We make these imagined acts meaningful for others through poiesis: we create a world of meaning in which they are imaginable by marking exemplars, noting commonalities, and creating spaces of remembrance. The product of our work thus makes these meaningless deaths and thought-defying atrocities meaningful and thinkable. If you think about it from the perspective of un-consolable resentment, this is a crime akin to justification or exoneration.