Eleonore Stump

Guilt and Forgiveness

April 6, 2018, 4:00 p.m.

Presented by: Dr. Eleonore Stump, Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

4:00 pm: “Guilt and Forgiveness”

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. In this paper, I consider the conflicting views about forgiveness on the part of the respondents in The Sunflower.

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.

7:30 pm: “What we Care About: The Desires of the Heart”

This lecture develops Aquinas’s theodicy by considering the way in which the suffering stemming from the loss or deprivation of the desires of a person’s heart can be defeated. It discusses the possibility, supported by one strand in the Christian tradition, deriving from John Cassian’s thought, among other sources, that the desires of the heart are to be given up. The lecture argues against this approach on the grounds that it is incompatible with the nature of love, of oneself or others. This lecture develops Aquinas’s theodicy to take account of suffering of this sort.


Phillips Auditorium – Searle Center
315 N West Street
Hillsdale, MI 49242


Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, where she has taught since 1992. She is also Honorary Professor at Wuhan University and at the Logos Institute, St.Andrews, and she is a Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University. She has published extensively in philosophy of religion, contemporary metaphysics, and medieval philosophy. Her books include her major study Aquinas (Routledge, 2003), her extensive treatment of the problem of evil, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford, 2010), and her far-reaching examination of human redemption, Atonement (Oxford, 2018). She has given the Gifford Lectures (Aberdeen, 2003), the Wilde lectures (Oxford, 2006), the Stewart lectures (Princeton, 2009) and the Stanton lectures (Cambridge, 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.