just remembrance

I’m working through Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting and I’ve reached his first notes on the question of a “duty of remembrance.” He approaches this as a question of the relation of justice to memory. This is a difficult concept following Ricoeur’s phenomenology of memory, which takes memory as potentially/partially spontaneous recall and therefor complicates the imperative “you must remember.” But here’s what surfaces so far:

First element of a response: it must be recalled, first, that among all the virtues, the virtue of justice is the one that, par excellence and by its very constitution, is turned toward others, We can say that justice is the component of otherness inherent in all the virtues that it wrests from the closed-circuit of the self with itself. The duty of memory is the duty to do justice, through memories to an other than the self.

Second element of a response: the time has come to introduce a new concept – debt, which must not be limited to the concept of guilt. The idea of debt is inseparable from the notion of heritage. We are indebted to those who have gone before us for part of what we are. The duty of memory is not restricted to preserving the material trace, wheter scriptural or other, of past events, but mantains the feeling of being obligated with respect to these others, of whom we shall later say, not they are no more, but that they were. Pat they debt, I shall say, but also inventory the heritage.

Third element of a response: among those others to whom we are indebted, the moral priority belongs to the victims. Todorov cautioned above against the tendency to proclaim onself a victim and endlessly to demand reparation. He was right. The victim at issue here is the other victim, other than ourselves.

The second of these is most novel. As Ricoeur has it, a rememberer is not just a custodian of information but a custodian of a sense of indebtedness. I’ll be interested to see how this develops following his discussion of forgetting.

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~ by staticandme on March 24, 2009.

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