Dahlem Postdoc Fellowship
November 2017 – December 2018
On Repentance - A Philosophical Account
Our societies - religious and secular, traditional and modern - are governed by a logic of sin and punishment, with rare moments of external redemption to erase all wrong. Little if any room is given to the idea of restorative amendment. My project offers a philosophical analysis of the idea of religious repentance as a restorative process, and it is aimed at translating this process' significance to ethics, politics and law as well. The idea of repentance is fundamental to religious traditions, and also central to ethics and criminal justice. In its broader sense, it refers to the process of extricating oneself from a wrongful existence into an atoned and forgiven state. Repentance reflects the recognition that any non-deterministic normative system - moral, legal or devotional - must create a space for self-correction and restoration.
Due to the certain interpretations of the concept in early Christian thought repentance came to be viewed primarily as a mental event, equivalent to regret in most respects. Consequently, scholarship in the fields of ethics, law and religion has yet to provide a conceptual account of repentance as a holistic process, and fully discuss the philosophical concerns it raises. The proposed project aims to fill this gap, and produce a book-length study of the idea of repentance in two parts: a phenomenological investigation into the various elements of repentance processes, and a metaphysical discussion of the relation between repentance and issues of personal identity and backward causality.