The Department of French and Italian

French Guest Lecturer Karen Pagani

Mon, February 4, 2008 | HRH 2.118

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

This paper examines attempts that were made by the French Encyclopedists to provide an account of forgiveness that would be consistent with the rational humanism they had embraced and thus wholly divorced from Christian models of conciliatory action. In so doing it attempts to provide a more nuanced understanding of a peculiar situation in which a concept proved to be incompatible with a specific communicative system's vocabulary but could not be abandoned as a real human possibility for both ideological and practical reasons. This paper thus reads forgiveness as a concept that proved to be beyond the limits of what the rational humanism of the Encyclopedists could explain in a manner that was consistent with their own respective philosophical systems. Through an examination of the Encyclopedists' treatment of forgiveness, this paper will elucidate some of the strengths and weaknesses of French Enlightenment moral philosophy as understood by one particular group of thinkers. Authors to be examined include: Paul- Henri Thiry d'Holbach, Louis de Jaucourt, Claude Yvon and Voltaire.

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  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
    201 W 21st Street STOP B7600
    HRH 2.114A
    Austin, TX 78712-1800