Forgiveness and the Rat Man: Kierkegaard, 'narrative unity' and 'wholeheartedness' revisited

John Lippitt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)
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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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNarrative, Identity and the Kierkegaardian Self
EditorsJohn Lippitt, Patrick Stokes
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)978-0748694433
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Kierkegaard
  • Narrative
  • Personal Identity
  • Moral Psychology
  • John Davenport
  • Harry Frankfurt
  • Anthony Rudd
  • J. David Velleman


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