Forgiveness and the Rat Man : Kierkegaard, 'narrative unity' and 'wholeheartedness' revisited
In Narrative Identity, Autonomy and Mortality: from Frankfurt and MacIntyre to Kierkegaard (Routledge, 2012), John Davenport has responded in detail to criticisms made by myself and others of the attempt to distinguish Kierkegaardian aesthetes from ethicists in terms of a notion of ‘narrative unity’ derived from Alasdair MacIntyre. In this paper, I explore central features of Davenport’s ‘new account’ of narrative unity, particularly what he calls unity-3, a development of Harry Frankfurt’s ‘wholeheartedness’. Can this account adequately address practical issues at the level of the phenomenology of a lived life? Suggesting that an answer will emerge only at the level of detail, I discuss a key element of David Velleman’s critique of Frankfurt’s valorisation of wholeheartedness. I connect Velleman’s discussion of Freud’s Rat Man with some recent literature on the nature of forgiveness. I argue that built into the very nature of an important variety of forgiveness – both of others and oneself – is an important ambivalence that a ‘wholeheartedness’ account cannot readily accommodate.
Published inNarrative, Identity and the Kierkegaardian Self