Re: [xmca] Pinochet

From: David Preiss (
Date: Tue Dec 12 2006 - 09:37:23 PST

Please let me answer with the fiollowing excerpt taken fom:

SORIN ANTOHI: I am going to begin from the end, as it were, as I first
want to ask you some questions about Memory, History, Forgetting. We
start there in order to move forward to other questions, if you agree.
1 There
is an entire world in this book, but I would like to begin by
exploring the
problem of forgiveness. This is a very difficult problematic to
for those who lack a theological culture, not simply a moral, ethical or
philosophical culture, but at least a kind of theological openness. You
have been poorly understood at times. For example, I have heard someone
criticize you with the claim that your “forgiveness” is a kind of
an unacceptable amnesty which would signify a retrospective approbation
regarding the evil done. How would you explain the problem of
to someone who is not a believer (a Christian one, for example), to
of a secular spirit?
PAUL RICOEUR: First of all, I would like to recall and emphasize the
space taken by this problem in my book. Strictly speaking, it is not
of the book. It is an epilogue, which was asked of me as a matter of
lectual honesty. The question of the relation between memory, history
forgetting is entirely closed upon itself at the end of the book.
  we are only talking about an epilogue. Second, the question that
ness raises does not concern the forgiving of others, but rather the
for forgiveness. Thus, the first relation to forgiveness is also to
the one from
which one asks. I am thinking of something that the Neoplatonic philoso-
pher of Jewish origins, Vladimir Jankélévitch, said while reflecting
as well
on forgiveness. He said: “They have not even asked us for forgiveness.”
He correctly observed, therefore, that the problem of forgiveness
a request addressed to others. There is another answer: Those who have
read me know very well that the person you mention in your question is
mistaken. The idea that governs the entire chapter on forgiveness is
forgiveness is a personal act, an act from person to person that does
concern juridical institutions. It is therefore precisely in this
chapter that I
speak of all the juridical institutions that must be protected,
including in
the case of crimes with no statutes of limitation. At the heart of
this chapter,
I write that “justice must pass, justice must be done.” Allow me to
give an
example. When the Pope went to visit his assailant in his jail cell,
they spoke
face to face, personally. We have no idea of what was said, but the
has never requested that his sentence be suspended. Instead, it is
the Italian
State that granted him his pardon. The problem that interests me here is
the dialectic between love and justice. I have written, in fact, a
small essay,
which was published in German and in French, on “love and justice.” In
this conference, given at the University of Tübingen, I showed that
the idea
of justice rests essentially on a relation of equivalence.
Forgiveness, on the
other hand, rests on a relation of excess, of over-abundance. There
are two
different logics operating here. Hence the question: can the logic of
which defines forgiveness, penetrate the logic of equivalence that
justice? The answer is yes, but on matters that can only be
symbolical. Take
for example the gesture of Chancellor Willy Brandt who went to kneel in
Warsaw at the feet of the monument commemorating the persecution of
the Jews and the Warsaw Ghetto. This was a symbolic gesture that created
no institution, but indicated that a common path may be forged beyond
the refusal of mutual recognition, which even prevents the exercise of a
relation of equivalence. And I would add that there are all kinds of
signs of
forgiveness within the juridical institutions, be it in the
consideration owed
to the accused, who is treated like an equal enjoying the right of
speech in
front of the courts. This word, “consideration,” is of great
importance to me,
because there is in the idea of justice left to its own device
something that is
vindictive, something that is very hard to distinguish from
vengeance. Hegel
discusses this in a passage from the Philosophy of Right on
punishment. He
shows that punishment always remains imprisoned within the repetition
of vengeance. Hegel evokes Greek tragedy in this context. And here the
proverb “Summun jus, summa injuria” remains true still: the apex of
law is
also the apex of injustice. Consequently, the world of justice must
be humanized. And one last remark. It is in the pages of the epilogue
you will find the most virulent critique of an institution that is
accepted by
all, namely, amnesty. I have spoken about this in the conference you
heard: amnesty is organized forgetting, and it has nothing to do with
pacification that forgiveness can bring between two consciences. It
is not
by chance that there is a kinship, a semantic kinship, at any rate in
between “amnesty” and “amnesia.” The institutions of amnesty are not all
the institutions of forgiveness. They constitute a forgiveness that
is public,
commanded, and that has therefore nothing to do with what I described
earlier as a personal act of compassion. In my opinion, amnesty does
at once to truth, thereby repressed and as if forbidden, and to
justice, at it
is due to the victims.
SORIN ANTOHI: You believe, therefore, that amnesty prevents what
I would call the work of forgiveness; amnesty thwarts the possibility of
PAUL RICOEUR: Amnesty prevents both forgiveness and justice.
SORIN ANTOHI: Yes, justice is thereby excluded from the process, because
there is no judgment made about the evil done and suffered. At the same
time, the absence of judgment thwarts the possibility of forgiveness.
PAUL RICOEUR: And that is why you will find in this epilogue a defense
of the notion that certain crimes should not be subjects to statutes
of limita-
tion, because they belong to the domain of justice. Why is this
Because these crimes themselves have long-lasting effects. Moreover,
guilty of such crimes have time on their side. They can hide and they
organize among themselves. Today, there are still war criminals, in
America or elsewhere, from the time of World War II. It is good,
that the possibility of punishing them remains open. And here, we are in
a domain of complete confusion between the private world of forgiveness
and the public world of justice.

On Dec 12, 2006, at 1:31 PM, Diane Hodges wrote:

> Hi all -
> This is an important discussion, but I am possibly misunderstanding
> what you
> write here David :
> "...So what we need is a memory that
> interrogates us: not a memory that gives us preprocessed solutions. I
> can't avoid but think of Ricouer here.
> David
> Really, we can't have a memory that 'interrogates us;' rather, we
> need to
> learn the skills that enable an interrogation of our memories. That
> might be
> what you were intending, but I wasn't sure... and the key here
> would be
> "what" tools are useful for interrogating our memories.
> It has always seemed to me that the human psyche is desperately
> fragile, and
> memories are constructed as a balm to soothe and stabilize
> identity, rather
> than as a link that might reveal our complicity, contradictions and
> misrepresentations... encouraging a cultural or historical memory
> that is
> open to interrogation (and here it must be a 'critical'
> interrogation) is,
> in practice, fraught with complications that invoke desperation
> more than
> reveal complicitness.
> I would think any community that has been immersed in a regime
> instigated by
> men such as Pinochet, or Stalin, Idi Amin, or any other political
> tyrant,
> would resist interrogating their memories precisely because of the
> frailty
> of memory and the implications of complicity - so, again, what
> tools make a
> critical memory possible; not only in learning to interrogate
> memory, but in
> coaxing us through the inevitable desperation that comes with this?
> ...Much to chew on. Thanks for this important discussion.
> Diane
> Diane Hodges
> Maison Bramble House
> 19 Valois Bay Avenue
> Pointe Claire, QC H9R 3Z2
> Tel: 514.630.6363
> Fax: 514.344.2994
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:xmca-
>] On
> Behalf Of David Preiss
> Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 12:03 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Pinochet
> Michael,
> I do think that remembering serves as a tool that prevent us, as a
> species, of falling into the same mess one time after another. I
> think that it was actually the misremembering of Vietnam which made
> the USA so prone to jump into such a bad initiative as was invading
> Iraq, and it was the bad memory of those responsible of promoting
> officers, which didn't realize Pinochet was involved already in
> abuses before being general, which made possible for him to ascend
> across the military ladder, and so on. I do agree that we can
> remember in obsessive, non-purposive ways. And also memory can be
> used for revenge (just think of the Balkans). And I agree with you
> that it is not any memory that is practical, but a memory with
> elaboration and significance. But I think complementarily that with
> no memory we are in risk of a greater danger, which is letting the
> doors open to political regressions. So what we need is a memory that
> interrogates us: not a memory that gives us preprocessed solutions. I
> can't avoid but think of Ricouer here.
> David
> On Dec 11, 2006, at 12:00 PM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>> David,
>> My question to you though is what is the purpose of remembering.
>> Do we remember simply to remember and hope that by remembering it
>> will make us better human beings? My feeling is that even
>> Santayana would have trouble with this. Remembering must have a
>> purpose, and that purpose needs to be related to an overt problem,
>> otherwise memories can be more dangerous than helpful. This is
>> because when we remember without purpose we may have a tendency to
>> objectify those memories - or there may be a latent purpose to the
>> memories that we are not admitting to. When we objectify the
>> memories we separate ourselves from them. Rather than being
>> participants in the natural scheme of activities we become judges
>> and observers. We are able to say, "Oh that Pinochet, what a bad,
>> bad man", without thinking of the role we ourselves might play in
>> the actions of people engaged in horrifying activities - or even
>> the roles we play in hurting people in our everyday lives. The
>> idea of a latent purpose to memories is also dangerous. You
>> mention using Vietnam to understand Iraq, but the truth is Vietnam
>> has little if anything to do with Iraq other than their proximity
>> in our history. By invoking the memory of Vietnam without
>> explicitly exploring the problem that you are looking to deal with
>> you are bringing a whole host of emotions and fears to the table
>> that individuals then use for their own purposes (there is
>> surprisingly still a large group in the United States who believe
>> we lost in Vietnam because we did not fight it wholeheartedly. And
>> many of the people who were pushing this war stayed home on
>> deferments and such during Vietnam and were fighting their own
>> demons). The only way you escape the use of history to steer
>> political debate is by explicitly invoking history in terms of an
>> immediate problem, and using it as one of many instruments to solve
>> that problem (can this actually be done? My heart says yes,
>> sometimes my head says no). Of course it is still political (can
>> we ever escape the political) but at least it is explicit.
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: on behalf of David Preiss
>> Sent: Mon 12/11/2006 9:31 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Pinochet
>> Dear JAG,
>> I think that you depict a too optimitic portrait of the final days of
>> the junta. After the intend to assassinate Pinochet in 1986 there was
>> a new wave of repression that got a significant number of people
>> killed and tortured. It is true some measures softened, but the power
>> of the military remained quite in place even until years after the
>> democracy returned. The real downfall of Pinochet started in 1998
>> when he was caught in London, which made a lot of people here to
>> realize the guy was really bad. It was only after 1998 that the
>> Chilean justice got he courage to do some minor but significant moves
>> against him. As for the relevance of memory, I think that this is of
>> foremost importance. Remembering is actually, using your terms, one
>> of the dimensions where we can act politically in the present. For
>> instance, by remembering Vietnam we can denounce the Iraqi war, by
>> rememering Rwanda, we can denounce Darfour, and so it goes. Too many
>> sad events that keep being reenacted by the humankind.
>> David
>> On Dec 11, 2006, at 5:56 AM, JAG wrote:
>>> I hope that by focusing on past crimes and criminals we don't forget
>>> about present crimes and criminals. I doubt that prosecuting the
>>> past
>>> serves as a warning to the present. I fear that focusing on the past
>>> allows us too much to forget about where there are possibilities for
>>> action - now.
>>> I did research in Chile - just before the fall of Pinochet - when
>>> there was a referendum on whether to have elections or to give
>>> Pinochet 4 more years to prepare for an election.
>>> It was clear that a) the junta had already fallen apart - to even
>>> get
>>> to the point of having the thought of a referendum b) people were
>>> still scared but many that had left in fear to go to Mexico had
>>> already returned c) since the Junta had done as one of its first
>>> acts
>>> the burning or invalidating of voter registration cards - people had
>>> to do something positive (act) to vote d) the fears were real
>>> enough,
>>> but the reality was more like "kitch" - the Junta masquerading as
>>> having power and the students around the University having what
>>> looked like candle lit conspiratorial corners - where they were
>>> doing
>>> things like selling pictures of John Lennon or tapes of Violetta
>>> Parra
>>> (Gracias a la vida).
>>> The junta and the revolution against it had turned to theater. My
>>> role
>>> was conduct, analyze focus groups and to devise strategies to get
>>> people to register to vote - since we knew that underlying opinion
>>> was
>>> 80% against the "four more years of Pinochet stewardship." People
>>> felt
>>> weak - in the face of the illusion of power and needed to develop
>>> some
>>> "collective" soiurces of strength. We did that by having the
>>> equivalent of a rock concert where, while people were turned up and
>>> socially protected it was easier for them to sign up to vote (as
>>> part
>>> of a social group that was doing the same). They were'n't thinking
>>> about voting (that was too scarcy) but they were thinking about
>>> "celectrating being Chileno." We got over 7 mil to sign up and won
>>> the
>>> referendum to have an election - thus washing away the power of
>>> those
>>> who had prospered during the Junta (following Milton Friedman and
>>> the
>>> "Chicago Boys" economic policies). So theater defeated theater - but
>>> by that time the contest it was only theatrical - with some
>>> practical
>>> consequences (like getting rid of a figure head)..
>>> Little noted was the fact that Milton Friedman recently died too -
>>> but
>>> there has been no Pinochet like outcry or celebration. I think that
>>> the toll in human suffering unleashed by economic neo-liberalism was
>>> as great or greater (but not as noticeable as crimes against
>>> humanity)
>>> as the crimes against humanity of Pinochet.
>>> My general point here is that it is easy to focus on the wrong
>>> symbols
>>> and then feel celebratory or angry about their ultimate demise -
>>> while
>>> we forget some of the underlying inhumanities that we either "only
>>> symbolically" protest, or don't even notice or care to acknowledge.
>>> By the time that people like Pinochet become prosecutable - they are
>>> already gone - and we are prosecuting a ghost and making ourselves
>>> feel good about it.
>>> Ghosts must be prosecuted, but we shouldn't allow ourselves to be
>>> diverted by apparitions,
>>> There is more to be done.
>>> As a simple example - the work of Vygotsky had to be brought out
>>> from
>>> under a veil by the moral force of A.R. Luria who made sure that his
>>> manuscripts found wider circulation - and became known to us. It was
>>> action like Luria's and Mike Cole's that created the availability of
>>> Vygotsky's thought - which we now take for granted as having "always
>>> been there," It was always there - but it required work for it to be
>>> seen,
>>> On 12/11/06, Leif Strandberg <> wrote:
>>>> Yes,
>>>> I remember our slogan from 1973 when we were marching on the
>>>> streets in
>>>> Sweden:
>>>> "Chile, Chile - Solidaritet"
>>>> It did not help - that time and now when Pinochet is dead another
>>>> thing comes into my mind. Last week a Swedish citizen was
>>>> sentenced to
>>>> life time in prison for war crimes in former Yugoslavia during the
>>>> civil war. He (a black man AND a member of White Aryan Resistance
>>>> (sic!)) did very bad things against muslim people in Bosina - so
>>>> I do
>>>> not think the trial was wrong. There are a lot of people who are
>>>> put in
>>>> trials (in Haag) for war crimes. I think it is good. But some
>>>> people
>>>> are evidenetly very hard to bring to such trials. And Pinochet was
>>>> one
>>>> of them.
>>>> Why?
>>>> Leif
>>>> 2006-12-11 kl. 01.00 skrev David Preish:
>>>>> Today the dead of Pinochet made me remember the old thread Mike
>>>>> initiated regarding forgiveness. Thus, the same day than we
>>>> across the
>>>>> world celebrate a new anniversary of the universal declaration of
>>>>> human rights, a new dictator goes away, unpunished for all the
>>>> harm he
>>>>> caused on thousands. Some people see this as a nice turn of
>>>> history:
>>>>> the general´s final day is marked by the international
>>>> commemoration
>>>>> of human rights. I see here the opposite thing: Pinochet left us
>>>>> smiling, untouched by the action of justice, remembering us
>>>>> that he
>>>>> won his final battle over those that intended to give human rights
>>>>> some kind of substance, to turn them in something real, which
>>>> can be
>>>>> touched. Here, then, a criminal has died. Shame on our judges.
>>>> We will
>>>>> not forget. Without justice, we will not forgive.
>>>>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>>>> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>>>>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>>>> Escuela de Psicología
>>>>> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>>>>> Macul, Santiago
>>>>> Chile
>>>>> Fono: 3544605
>>>>> Fax: 3544844
>>>>> e-mail:
>>>>> web personal:
>>>>> web institucional:
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>> Escuela de Psicología
>> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>> Macul, Santiago
>> Chile
>> Fono: 3544605
>> Fax: 3544844
>> e-mail:
>> web personal:
>> web institucional:
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
>> <winmail.dat>
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> David Preiss, Ph.D.
> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
> Escuela de Psicología
> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
> Macul, Santiago
> Chile
> Fono: 3544605
> Fax: 3544844
> e-mail:
> web personal:
> web institucional:
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

David Preiss, Ph.D.
Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Escuela de Psicología
Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
Macul, Santiago

Fono: 3544605
Fax: 3544844
web personal:
web institucional:

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