Suffering and Flourishing, Guilt and Forgiveness

The Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry is pleased to welcome back Professorial Fellow Eleonore Stump who will be at the Institute during August and will be presenting some free seminars in Theology and Philosophy of Religion. Her research traverses both temporal and disciplinary boundaries, with interest in medieval and contemporary philosophy and theology.

The seminars will be will be foretastes of her Stanton Lectures (at Cambridge University), which she will be giving later this year.

What: Seminars on Guilt and Forgiveness (Monday) and Suffering and Flourishing (Wednesday)

Where: Room 460.4.28, Level 4, 250 Victoria Parade Melbourne ACU

When: Monday August 27th 3.30pm – 5.00pm and Wednesday August 29th 3.30pm – 5.00pm

Guilt and Forgiveness: Monday August 27th

In Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Sunflower: On the Possibility and Limits of Forgiveness, Wiesenthal tells the story of a dying German soldier who was guilty of horrendous evil against Jewish men, women, and children, but who desperately wanted forgiveness from and reconciliation with at least one Jew before his death. Wiesenthal, then a prisoner in Auschwitz, was brought to hear the German soldier’s story and his pleas for forgiveness. As Wiesenthal understands his own reaction to the German soldier, he did not grant the dying soldier the forgiveness the man longed for. In The Sunflower, Wiesenthal presents reflections on this story by numerous thinkers. Their responses are noteworthy for the highly divergent intuitions they express.

I argue that those respondents who are convinced that forgiveness should be denied the dying German soldier are mistaken. Nonetheless, I also argue in support of the attitude that rejects reconciliation with the dying German soldier. I try to show that, in some cases of grave evil, repentance and making amends are not sufficient for the removal of guilt, and that reconciliation may be morally impermissible, whatever the case as regards forgiveness.

Suffering and Flourishing: Wednesday August 29th

Even when we praise a person who suffers for not sinking under his suffering, we suppose that the sufferer is to be ranked more among life’s losers than among life’s winners. From the Patristic period onward, however, the Christian tradition has held that those who endure serious suffering are not the pitiable losers of life or even the heroic overcomers of tragedy but rather are those specially loved by God. Clearly, there is something right about the contemporary unreflective rejection of suffering as bad. Someone who valued suffering as an intrinsic good would be perverse at best and mentally disturbed or evil at worst. But I want to look closely at the relevant Christian doctrines to see what can be said to explain and defend the attitude towards suffering found in the Christian tradition that sees suffering as part of flourishing.

Professor Stump is Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, Missouri and Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University. She has published extensively in philosophy of religion, contemporary metaphysics, and medieval philosophy and has delivered the Gifford Lectures (Aberdeen, 2003), the Wilde lectures (Oxford, 2006), and the Stewart lectures (Princeton, 2009). She will deliver the Stanton Lectures (Cambridge) in 2018. She is past president of the Society of Christian Philosophers, the American Catholic Philosophical Association, and the American Philosophical Association, Central Division; and she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Download a pdf flyer about the seminars here (PDF file, 59KB)

If you wish to attend the seminars which are free, please RSVP to

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