Justice as Gratefulness

Forces Occultes

Paper presented at the session, “Grievance: Justice in Time,” 2022 MLA Annual Convention, Washington D.C., 6 January 2022.

1. My Father’s Wrong

In 1943, twenty-two years before I was born, my father agreed to write the music for a 43-minute-long film called Forces occultes: Les Mystères de la Francmasonerie (henceforth referred to in English as Occult Forces), directed by Paul Riche, the pseudonym of Jean Mamy. The film recounts the life of a member of parliament, Pierre Avenel, played by Maurice Rémy, who joins the Freemasons in order to relaunch his career. In doing so, he learns how the Freemasons are conspiring with the Jews to encourage France into a war against Germany. Overall, the film presents the Freemasons as a secretive organisation striving to slyly expand its sphere of influence and power in society and in the world. This is particularly evident in the episodes showing the young deputy entering the Masonic lodge and slow realising the methods, stratagems, and tricks with which the Masons insidiously penetrate the ranks of power and the way they provoke the war. Commissioned by the French branch of the Propaganda Abteilung, a delegation of Nazi Germany’s propaganda ministry within occupied France, the film was a biased piece of Vichy Government propaganda that attributed the origins of the war to “the cabal of Masons in allegiance with international Jews,”[1] a theme which struck a resonant chord in France because it represented “a popular sentiment among the French leading up to the Nazi Occupation.”[2]

On France’s liberation, the film’s screenwriter, Jean Marquès-Rivière, its producer Robert Muzard, and its director Jean Mamy were trialled for collaboration with the enemy. On 25 November 1945, the producer was condemned to 3 years in prison and the screenwriter was condemned in absentia to death and degradation (he had gone into self-imposed exile). On the 29 March 1949, the director Jean Mamy was executed at the fortress of Montrouge, near Paris. Unlike these key players in the making of this film, my father managed to avoid persecution. In 1946, a year after the liberation of Paris and three years after Occult Forces was released in a cinema on the Champs Elysées, my father was awarded the Paris Prize for Music for an oratorio, Psaume 136, Le Chant des Captifs, written while a prisoner of war at Stalag IX A, near Kassel, in Germany. The oratorio praises the goodness that God has bestowed on the people of Israel and contains the lines “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” As if this wasn’t enough, in 1957, my father took up the position of Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (until 1959), where he composed another oratorio, Le Lis de Saron ou le Cantique des Cantiques, working closely with the renowned Israeli scholar André Chouraqui. Finally, my father received the Legion d’Honneur for services rendered to music before dying of cancer in 1976.

The history of the collaboration of French musicians during the Vichy Government is a murky one. Amongst my father’s contemporaries, many were either opportunistic composers or outspoken supporters. On the opportunistic camp, Alexis Roland-Manuel, Henri Sauguet, Maurice Yvain, or André Jolivet, for example, composed and/or directed music for the Vichy regime. By contrast, the composer Henri Rabaud, for example, was a major collaborator, compiling lists of Jewish students in order to prevent Germans from closing the Paris Conservatoire. So, there were clearly degrees of collaboration, and my father would have been an opportunistic composer. This is much evidenced in conversations I had with my aunt, my father’s sister, France Audoul, who had been deported to Ravensbrück for being a resistance fighter and who managed to return alive to tell her story. Within the family, the story was a simple one: on returning from captivity, my father needed money. His mother had squandered her late husband’s inheritance and was entirely dependent on her children. It was therefore a desperate attempt to “put food on the table,” as my aunt told me in person just before dying in the late 1970s.

So how do I inherit this? I was brought up with a vision of my family as exclusively devoted to the cause of the resistance and entirely supportive of the communist’s and Gaullist’s efforts to fight the Nazis. And yet, as soon as Occult Forces was uploaded for free viewing on YouTube in the mid 2000s, I have been the recipient of endless emails demanding if not an expiation for wrongdoing, at least an explanation and a gesture of atonement towards a wrong committed before birth. Nearly seventy years after the end of France’s post-war trials into alleged collaboration and the end of all legal and moral statute of limitations, I am still left to carry the burden of this immemorial wrong. Ever since that YouTube upload, I can no longer be proud of my father’s lifetime contributions to music; I’ve become his defender, seeking if not forgiveness, at least a plea for extenuating circumstances.

2. Hamlet or Justice as a Deconstructive Gesture

There is no doubt that this immemorial wrong has nurtured over the year into a grievance against my father. How stupid of him to have agreed to compose this music. Could he not have begged for food instead? My grievance is obviously intertwined with grief. After all, does grievance not also means pain and mourning as well as complaint, injustice, and a wrong that must be righted. My complaint is also therefore an expression of grief that he is no longer here to endure the humiliation, hear the complaints, and repent. But no, I am to constantly live with my father’s spectre and the imaginary excuses I can hear from it. Stuck with this grievance, I am now the unenviable man of right who’s been tasked to redress this unfortunate wrong. I realise that this grievance is nothing compared to others, more pressing and more desperate, especially now with the war of grievances on both sides of the political spectrum and the surreal inequalities and inequities that exist between races.

In any case, even if it is inconsequential in the great scheme of things, it is difficult not to recall here, with this simple problem of grievance (in both senses of the term) and this inequitable demand for forgiveness, the problem of justice: the fact that it is always tied to time as duration. Justice is indeed a determination in relation to a past or a future. On the one hand, justice establishes a causal chain that links up present and past together. I cannot shake off this past as I live here in the present. It is with me, on me, like an indelible scar. Of course, I could pretend that my aunt’s resistance and survival count more than my father’s soft collaboration, thus using the advantage of a personal link to a concentration camp. But that would be cheating. So, I am stuck with this injustice anchored in a past I cannot recall. On the other hand, justice also refers to a future potential rectification of this past wrong. Maybe, I am using this paper to finally redeem my father. In any case, justice is clearly always stuck in a perpetual causal chain leaving me torn between a crumbling past that needs correcting and a promissory redemptive future.

So, the temporal mechanism of justice is clear enough. Through testimonies, forensic evidence, police reports, justice is the exclusive process of rectifying past wrongs, sealing the past with a supposedly legitimate version of history. Jacques Derrida’s famous deconstructive gestures on this topic aim precisely to counteract this hegemonic vision of justice by keeping it in suspense.[3] Recalling Hamlet, he insists that we must focus on what is out of joint in order to prevent this fatal closure from happening. By emphasising the temporal mechanism of justice, he wants to keep the possibility of justice open. Justice is not that which is sentenced; it is what is always out of joint, in other words, without guarantee that it is just. Right when the judge is about to slam the gavel, his or her hand must therefore be held back so that justice remains uncertain, still in need to be verified.

Alas, this Derridean view of justice does not help me. My problem is simply that I am, perhaps not unlike Hamlet (but of course without the curse of having to wear a crown and being the top man of law) stuck in a situation whereby the wrong is caught up in a chain that has a clear beginning, but no end. My father will neither be condemned in perpetuity, nor his memory redeemed of any wrongdoing. Not even this paper can amount to much in terms of justice. To me, at least, this open-ended nature of the future is precisely what dissolves any form of deconstructive justice. Faced with immemorial cases like this, for which there are only unhappy inheritors, justice not so much remains open, like Derrida hopes, but simply flounders; its authority becomes questionable, the out of jointness pathetically extendable to infinity.

So, because of this, I feel, it is necessary to rethink the temporal dimension of justice again. Can there be an alternative to justice as duration? Instead of endlessly attempting to correct this immemorial fatherly wrong, can I yearn for a time removed from the fatality of this grievance? On all accounts this seems impossible because I cannot undo a wrong already committed. The fatal march of time prevents me from thinking justice in any other way than this process of correcting past wrongs. My yearning is sweet, but most simply futile. I will never be free from this immemorial wrong. The only saving grace is that I have no children, so at least I am reassured that this past wrong will at last perish with me, or so I hope.

3. Justice as the Ethical Category of the Existent

But even if my yearning is futile, the imperative of thinking the time of justice not exclusively stemming from grievance and forgiveness does not go away. However much, it is impossible, I feel I must make it my duty to think of a justice that evades the shackles of durational time. It must be a justice somehow more powerful than duration, than all immemorial and memorial wrongs, than all present and future sentencing. But this isn’t all, it must also be a justice that is not entirely conceived as purely out of joint. It cannot simply be a justice unhinged, open to the radically other, that is, to the possibility of future redemptions. It must be a justice capable of somehow releasing me from the shackles of a justice to come, of a Most High as the guarantor for the discharge of justice.

This altogether different justice must concern the sheer facticity of existence. John Paul Ricco talks of this other type of justice by emphasising the singularity of solitude. He suggests, following Walter Benjamin, that solitude stands for true justice because it is the only ethical category of the existent.[4] As he says, “justice takes place when life is returned to the solitude of its singularity,”[5] a justice that happens over and beyond the hegemonic movement of the law. This different type of justice is thus free from the law of duration, it is free from the category of the demanded, of the one whose grievance is put forward and of the one whose reparation is rendered. So, there could be justice after all for the existent.

But this is no easy category. Within the context of a Jewish conception of justice, which Benjamin, like Derrida, follow, this ethical category of the existent is here again understood through the prism of a difference opened to the radically Other. As such, the only choice the existent can have, is to express this justice through a prayer to God. As Benjamin says in his note to a study of the category of justice, it is a prayer to “our father [asking him to] not be lead into temptation, to redeem us from evil [etc.]… [this prayer] is a request for justice, for the just state of the world.”[6] This prayerful justice of the existent, which is also that of the world as existent, would then be nothing more than a grumbled appeal made, of course, in typical Benjaminian form, as part of the historical march of time.[7]

But once again, can I truly be satisfied with this? I am still stuck with this grievance that I cannot shake off. I am still chained to a historical determination that makes me not only the son of my father, but also the son of a father who has done wrong. This does not mean that I cannot shake off the weight of his wrongdoings, that I cannot ignore the plight of those he injured, that I cannot be my own man irrespective of any inheritance. Even if I could do all these things, even if I could follow Ricco and Benjamin in thinking a justice of solitude, a justice entirely riveted to the existent that I am, I would still be faced, not unlike Cain and the eye of conscience, with this irremediable wound that still needs to be addressed, dressed, and made better. What I really need is a justice as a category of the existent for which the existent is not just a pawn in the process of teleology shot through with chips of messianic time. Can this be possible?

4. Justice of the Existent or that of God or Nature.

There is one key expression in Benjamin’s note to a future study of the category of justice that is worth reconsidering. He writes that “justice, in the end, can only be the state of the world or the state of God.”[8] It is difficult not to perceive Benjamin’s hesitation as a voluntary or involuntary re-writing of Spinoza’s God or Nature. Unfortunately, I do not have the space here to explore the idea that Benjamin was aware of Spinoza’s Deus sive Natura when he wrote his note. What I can do, however, is to explore this odd hesitation within a Spinozian framework, that is, between the state of Nature and that of God. My aim in doing so is to show how the justice of the existent can also take place on the edge of all legal durational linkages. If my Spinozian-Benjaminian perspective is acceptable, I would then be able to strengthen the existential unhinging of time in such a way that it is more than just a prayer.

In what follows, I will operate a key shift in register which would require lengthy analyses that, unfortunately, cannot take place here. This shift is to understand the existent or the state of the world as Spinoza’s Nature. Such a shift is comprehensible if one takes Spinoza’s understanding of the word “Nature” for what it is, namely, as the ontological category of all there is which, as is well known, is reducible to one (monism) albeit only understandable as extension and thought.[9] The state of the world or of the existent is Nature understood as a durational order, that is, as Nature Natured.

With this, comes the state of God. Within a Spinozian framework, this is Nature Naturing, an order that is distinctive in being exclusively eternal—not in a sempiternal sense, but as existence-qua-existence.[10] So instead of having an existent or a world chained to a materialist historical process either shot through with chips of messianic time or unhinged by otherworldly interruptions, we have an existent or a world (a nature natured) whose historical process is inextricably linked to that of God or nature naturing. This shift from a transcendental apprehension of the history of justice to an immanent one allows for a recasting of how the existent interprets and lives justice.

This shift is indeed crucial because it allows for the existent to no longer come before God or the radically Other lording its justice from without or the future. With Spinoza’s famous reversal, the existent or the world is basically nature natured as sustained by nature naturing without the latter imparting either its final judgement or its endless promise from what cannot be recalled or envisaged. In other words, the existent or the world embodies its own justice by the way it decrees it without any justice to-come or promised. No more justice in the future then, only a justice “now,” one neither suspended nor compromised. With this shift in mind, let me now see whether it is possible to extent Benjamin’s justice of the existent (or state of the world) in such a way that it does not leave us stranded in the endless messianic suspension of the movement of the law and its prayer.

The first thing to note is that “the state of the world” or Nature (or natura naturata in Spinoza’s vocabulary) can only be the movement of the law. As such, it is entirely durational, teleological, and therefore historical.[11] It marshals all grievances and apologies. It is the law of the judge who reigns supreme in the adjudication of all past wrongs and who seals the fate of all grievances. Because it is durational, this state of the world or Nature is not necessarily adequate; it can fire off injustices as much as it tries to establish justice; it can fail to give victims their compensations as much as it righteously attempts to create a fairer world. So, when Benjamin says that justice can only be “the state of the world,” he is referring to justice as the history of law, a justice entirely the result of a durational causality, including all historical ones that give me here, for example, the possibility of thinking my father’s past wrongs and their potential correction in the future.[12]

However, the history of the law cannot take place purely of its own volition. So, what motivates this set of temporal causes and effects that establishes justice as this movement of the law? What gives me power to carry this immemorial wrong and embrace being the man of right to engage the effect of an apology such as this short essay? In order to address these questions, it is necessary to now focus on Benjamin’s alternative. He indeed states that justice can also be “the state of God.” As I mentioned earlier, God here, is obviously not, a supreme entity external to the movement of law and answering or not my prayer. In absolute immanence, God must be intrinsic to the durational process of justice. However, such intrinsicality cannot be a mysterious inherent power that makes justice take place as this always-unfair movement. It must be instead, and here I necessarily depart from Benjamin’s own take on God, a logical and eternal causality. Being eternal, this causality is, of course, not temporal. It is a logical causality without durational linkages, something always difficult to conceive.

Let me put it this way: My existence is shackled to an infinite chain of finite durational causations. I wouldn’t have inherited my father’s wrong if this wasn’t the case. I wouldn’t have arrived in a world full of historical wrongs, if this wasn’t the case. However, my existence is also the expression of a causal necessity that cannot be understood within the schemes of past, present, and future, even if it is infinitely immemorial or futural. This other causality provides me with the power that makes me be who I am, the inheritor of my father’s contradictory morality, the man of right. This other causality is necessarily eternal in the sense that it stands for existence-qua-existence without any temporal anchoring.

This eternal causality does not, of course, determine, explain, or justify the endless chain of durational causations. The reason is simple: there can be no distinction between the state of the world or the state of God, the finite state of nature or its eternal taking place, nature natured and nature naturing, divine justice or the movement of the law. I am therefore, as an existent, the very power of this eternal causality that manifests itself in finite durational form. In other words, through my durational causalities, I express the logical eternity that powers the finite part that I play in redressing my father’s wrong.

So, when it comes to the justice of the existent or of the world, one must take Benjamin’s alternative seriously, albeit one freed of any whiff of transcendental messianism, even reduced to a messianicity without messianism, as in Derrida.[13] The state of the world or the state of God, duration or eternity establish the taking place of justice as such, a justice that is, at last, not exclusively chained to durational causalities and therefore to the hegemonic history of law and its sole solution or escape besides the gavel, the prayer. Thanks to Benjamin’s hesitation and Spinoza’s reversal, the existent can finally get a justice worthy of its name.

5. Justice as Gratefulness

Now that I am armed with what feels like a stronger temporal conception of justice than that put forward by the man of law or the deconstructed and Godless man of faith, how do I proceed? What does Benjamin’s justice of the existent, one infused with the thought of Spinoza, allow me to articulate about my own inherited wrong? What does this category of justice as this double movement, one causally durational and the other causally eternal, allow me to do in my exhausted search for forgiveness on behalf of my father? In order to answer these final questions, I would like to take up Benjamin’s justice of the existent, that is, in my vocabulary, the justice of both a durational and eternal causality, and think it through as gratefulness.[14] The idea of thinking justice as gratefulness is practically impossible in the West because from God’s curse on Cain for having killed Abel and from Jesus who asked God to forgive those who crucified him, but never to thank them, the whole history of justice is exclusively predicated on the durational trio crime/justice/forgiveness. So how do I make sense of this unusual form of justice?

Firstly, following Patrick Fitzgerald’s analysis of gratitude, I understand gratefulness as a three-part response: it is a feeling, a rational decision, and an action.[15] Firstly, gratefulness is an emotion. It expresses a warm sense of appreciation. I feel grateful to my father for all the other things he gave me, for example. Secondly, it also expresses a rational goodwill towards something or someone. I am grateful to everyone who worked hard in trialling all those who were outspoken supporters of the Nazi regime, for example. This is rational in as much as the opposite would be irrational in relation to the way history ended up being written. Finally, gratefulness is “a disposition to act which flows from appreciation and goodwill.”[16] I act out my gratefulness in proffering a word of thanks to resistance fighters, for example. Uttering the words “thank you” constitute an act that follows from the emotion and the rational decision.[17] Of course, the act can be false, saying “thank you” with gritted teeth, for example. However, in what follows, it will become clear that the type of gratefulness I am targeting here renders null and void any form of hypocrisy.

In all three instances, gratefulness is, as Kant clearly noted, invariably understood within the context of an economy. As he says, “gratefulness consists in honouring a person because of a benefit he has rendered us.”[18] World War II soldiers, for example, merit a word of thanks from the entire world. All those who like me were spared from totalitarianism owe it to them, at least, in being grateful. As this shows, gratefulness understood as an economy is entirely regulated, like grievance and forgiveness, by a durational understanding of time. Gratefulness is an emotional, rational, and active response from a point in the future in relation to a past event. Hence its importance with regards to justice. Understood economically, that is, following indebtedness, gratefulness is the opposite side of forgiveness following grievance. This indebtedness is easily exemplified in a myriad of small causal daily gestures (thank you Grant Farred and Carry Wolfe for inviting me to write this short essay, for example).

Can there be a type of justice of the existent or the state of the world that structures itself through the prism of this other side of justice, namely, gratefulness, without falling in the trap of a transcendental Levinasian gratefulness for which gratefulness is not part of being (his famous “thanks to God”[19])? Can there be such a thing as gratefulness in relation to the existent as it marshals together both eternal and durational causalities? The only way of answering this is if both durational and eternal causalities are thought together. They need to be together because gratefulness, and therefore this new form of temporal justice I am seeking here, can never be exclusively tied to history as economy, for otherwise it simply becomes a duty as in Kant.[20] Justice as gratefulness can indeed only be an-economic, that is, it can only be channelled through both causalities—the word an-economic being deliberately left open following Benjamin’s own alternative between the two states.[21] How can I make sense of this an-economic grateful justice? This will be my last point.

Everything revolves around a shift in perspective from one understood purely durationally to one understood at the cusp of the durational and the eternal. This shift is from a pure passive perspective to one that is both active and passive. Up until now, if I think of gratefulness or grievance, I can only conceive of them passively, that is, as a response to an act already occurred: saying sorry for a past crime or thank you for holding the door, for example. By contrast, in the type of gratefulness in question here, I am not just passively expressing a feeling or a rational decision, I am also engaged in acting out such gratefulness. Right at the edge of durational and eternal causalities, I say thank you not just because I am in debt, but also because I have nothing to gain or hope for.

Gratefulness is indeed always both a response to a debt and unlike apologies, a response that is not meritorious—an act of kindness that is not strictly owed. As such, thank you simply affirms two causalities, economically (I passively respond to the other) and an-economically (I actively act out a gesture without return). Being both passive and active, justice as gratefulness then becomes stronger than any passive relation to the movement of the law, including all acts of apology. Gratefulness simply expresses the true means and ends of justice: not the fall of the judge’s gavel who passively positions him or herself in relation to durational causalities, not the existent who passively prays for redemption or what is to-come, but the active/passive taking place of justice itself, one that is neither in time strictly speaking nor out of time as such.

My original question was simply to ask whether I can yearn for a time removed from the fatality of this immemorial grievance? The answer is still no because there is no getting away from the fatal march of time making me arrive always too late after the deed, thus chaining me to a never-ending process of forgiveness. However, I feel I am now better armed than when I could only passively consider a type of justice as always already to-come or simply reduced to a prayer. Having embraced a type of justice that is no longer exclusively that of the movement of the law, but also that of the existent in its eternal and logical causalities, I can finally think of justice based on gratefulness alone, a recognition that a word of thanks is the true movement of justice because it is always already two-fold in its causal deployment. The judge now needs to not only passively respond to the movement of the law, but also to actively say thank you for passing the sentence as the eternal causality that he or she is.

In this way, the movement of the law does not need to be exclusively tied to durational parameters. It can, and perhaps must, also stem from the existent who is embroiled in it, albeit empowered by the eternal movement that allows him or her to say “thank you” not out of a benevolent disposition or a natural tendency toward gratefulness, but because it suffers from no other equivalence.[22] While I remain stuck with my immemorial grievance, a grievance I cannot recall and yet continues to call for reparation and forgiveness, I can nonetheless now, as the man of right, be grateful not out of an active rational appreciation for a troubled inheritance, but because that is precisely the only justice worthy of its name, that is, worthy of its existential causality. The eternal and durational causations that express this word of thanks indeed extend themselves not beyond memory or a future uncalled for, but out of sheer necessity, a necessity that at last cannot be revoked or cancelled. Without resentment or contentment, thanks, father, for your contribution to music and for the wrong you’ve committed.

[1] For a detailed presentation of this film, see Jean-Claude Le Saul, Forces occultes our le reality-show comme discours (Paris: Editions Maçonniques de France, 2022), p. 5, my translation.

[2] Le Saul, Forces occultes, p. 17.

[3] Is it not Jacques Derrida who talks most clearly about the temporal problem of justice? In both Spectres of Marx and other texts, he indeed insists on highlighting this temporal dimension that founds justice as this endless process of seeking a reparation for a past wrong. As is well known, it is of course Hamlet that Derrida takes as this prime example of the way justice is temporally established. He writes: “Hamlet curses the destiny that would have destined him to be the man of right, precisely as if he were cursing the right or the law itself that has made of him a righter of wrongs, the one who, like the right, can only come after the crime, or simply after: that is, in a necessarily second generation, originarily late and therefore destined to inherit.” This process of always rectifying a past wrong thus founds justice as the law. This is, what he calls, “the indefinite malediction that marks the history of the law or history as law: that time is ‘out of joint’ is what is also attested by birth itself when it dooms someone to be the man of right and law only by becoming an inheritor, redresser of wrongs, that is, only by castigating, punishing, killing.” Justice could not stand for the law if it weren’t for this temporal foundation that makes us all responsible inheritors of past injustices. See, Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx, The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International, trans. P. Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 20.

[4] Walter Benjamin, “Note to a Study of the Category of Justice,” in Eric Jacobson, Metaphysics of the Profane. The Political Theology of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p. 166.

[5] John Paul Ricco, “Isolation, Loneliness, Solitude: The COVID-19 – Pandemic Has Brought Us Too Close Together,” in TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies 41 (2020): 164-172, DOI: 10.3138/topia-020.

[6] Benjamin, “Note to a Study of the Category of Justice,” p. 167.

[7] One could add here the fact that the solitude of this existent would then position him or herself against the hegemony of the law, that is, against the totalitarianism of justice as duration. It is difficult not to recall here, as John Paul Ricco and others have done in the past, Hannah Arendt’s stern warning that the aim of a tyrannical regime is to have understood that solitude and above all isolation consists in impotence. In his or her solitude, the existent would then be the victim of this juridical totalitarian regime that forces us to turn to ourselves because it has rendered us impotent in thinking any other form of justice than that of the durational movement of the law. I can only leave this enormous question for another occasion. See Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973), p. 478.

[8] Benjamin, “Note to a Study of the Category of Justice,” p. 166. NB: For lack of space, I leave here the enormous topic that comes with the rest of this sentence, namely, “In God, all virtues take the form of justice—the byword ‘all’ in i.e., all-true, all-knowing, points to this.”

[9] See, Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, translated by Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1992), Part I, Definitions #3, #5 + Proposition 1, Proof + Proposition 12, Proof + Proposition 14, Proof, Corollaries 1 & 2 + Proposition 15, Proof, Corollaries 1, 2, & 3 + Proposition 16, Proof, Corollary, Scholium + Proposition 29, Proof, Scholium + Proposition 33, Proof, Scholia 1 & 2 + Part III, Definition #2 + Part IV, Definition #8 + Proposition 29, Proof + Proposition 30, Proof + Proposition 31, Proof, Corollary + Proposition 35, Proof, Corollaries 1 & 2, Scholium + Appendix, Chapter 7.

[10] See Spinoza, Ethics, Ethic, Part I, Definition #1, #3, Explication, #4, #5, #6, Explanation, #8 + Axioms #1, #2, #3 + Proposition 1, Proof + Proposition 5, Proof + Proposition 6, Proof, Corollary, Further Proof + Proposition 7, Proof + Proposition 8, Proof, Scholia 1 & 2 + Proposition 11, Proof, Scholium + Proposition 25, Proof, Scholium, Corollary + Proposition 29, Proof, Scholium + Proposition 36, Proof + Part II, Definition 6 + Letters, #36 to John Hudde, June 1666 + Short Treatise on God man and Human Welfare, Part I, Chapter 7.

[11] See, Spinoza, Ethics, Part I, Proposition 11, Proof, Further Proofs 1 & 2 + Proposition 33, Proof, Scholia 1 & 2 + Proposition 36, Proof + Appendix + Part II, Proposition 7, Proof, Corollary, Scholium + Proposition 9, Proof, Corollary, Proof + Proposition 10, Proof, Scholium, Corollary, Proof, Scholium + Proposition 18, Proof, Scholium + Part IV, Proposition 4, Proof, Corollary + Part V, Proposition 1, Proof.

[12] From this state of the world or Nature, I am thus the recipient and transmitter within a chain of causalities that links up a wrong to a claim for reparation or redemption. The key to understand this properly is that this durational perspective is an extensive temporality. It concerns a cause that expresses its qualities or properties to the effect while the effect expresses the qualities or properties of its cause. As such, there is nothing strictly speaking pregnant with a cause (like I would be pregnant with my father’s wrong, for example) and there is nothing strictly speaking actualized about the effect (like I would be the incarnation of my father’s right, for example). In other words, there is no potential in the cause and nothing actual in the effect. There is only the expressivity of a causal and effectual chain without identifiable states at either end. Because it is extensive, this causality can only be, as I said, inadequate because it can never give me an adequate picture of the chain in question. I am always already in an indefinite set of causes and effects, that can never stand for an adequate causal order. I am always already trapped in a chain of past wrongs and potential future redemptions. The only thing I can do is to determine some of the causes and effects, as I have done at the start of this paper, in extensive durational determinations.

[13] The infinite promise of a messianicity without messianism is precisely described in these terms: “[justice] is not and cannot be assured of anything, whether it be through knowledge, consciousness, predictability, or any program as such. This abstract messianicity belongs to the experience of faith, of belief, of a credit irreducible to knowledge and of a trustworthiness that ‘grounds’ any relation to another in testimony. This justice alone allows one, beyond all ‘messianisms,’ to hope for a universalizable culture of singularities… in which the abstract possibility of the impossibility of translating can at least be announced. It is inscribed in advance in the promise, in the act of faith or in the call to faith that inhabits every act of language and every address to the other. The universalizable culture of this faith, and not of another or before any other, allows alone a ‘rational’ and universal discourse on the subject of ‘religion.’” Jacques Derrida, “Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of ‘Religion’ at the Limits of Mere Reason,” in J. Derrida and G. Vattimo (eds.), Religion (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 28. See, also, amongst others: Jacques Derrida, “The Deconstruction of Actuality: An Interview with Jacques Derrida,” (1993), trans. Jonathan Rée, in Deconstruction: A Reader, ed. Martin McQuillan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), pp. 527–53.

[14] Throughout I will be using the word gratefulness because it is an adjective which means being thankful. I could have used “gratitude,” which is a noun and means thanks. Usage: I am grateful for your help. I offer you my gratitude for your services.

[15] I follow up to a point. Although he discusses the differences in this essay, Fitzgerald often conflates gratitude and gratefulness. His three-part definition is mostly geared towards gratitude and not gratefulness. Unfortunately, there is no space here for me to discuss Fitzgerald’s essay, especially when it comes to gratitude being a virtue. Patrick Fitzgerald, “Gratitude and Justice,” in Ethics 109, no. 1 (October 1998): 119-153.

[16] Fitzgerald, “Gratitude and Justice,” p. 120.

[17] I use here the English word. It goes without saying that this expression belongs to an etymological category of words whose original meaning is multiple. In other languages, this expression would have other resonances and associations that unfortunately cannot be explored here.

[18] Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals [1797], translated by Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 6: 454.

[19] For Levinas, justice as the movement of the law is always an issue for objective consciousness that involves a third party who corrects the asymmetry of the existent in relation to the other. As part of this scheme, gratefulness can only occur as word of thanks to God, who alone is able to escape the clutches of ontology and of the judging third party. So, when exclaiming “thanks to God,” Levinas clearly highlights what is not part of being and is thus the sole guarantor of a grateful justice. To the question why I receive justice from others, for example, can only be answered quasi-theologically, as “thanks to God.” See Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2004), p. 162.

[20] Kant described two kinds of gratefulness (out of duty and out of inclination), but as can be expected, his sole concern is for the former, out of duty. He writes: “Gratitude is of two kinds: from duty, and from inclination. It comes from duty, when we remain unmoved by the other’s kindness, but see that it behooves us to be grateful; in that we have, not a grateful heart, but principles of gratitude. We are grateful from inclination, insofar as we feel love in return.” Kant, Metaphysics of Moral, 27: 441. The reason I discard gratefulness out of duty is because it is not something that can be acquired. Gratefulness is not a virtue or a maxim destined to overcome our natural tendency toward ingratitude. For me, it is exclusively an inclination, otherwise, it is not truly thankful.

[21] A logical and eternal gratefulness in the throes of durational causalities can never be, in this way, strictly speaking for something. If it is for something, then only durational parameters are taken in consideration. For it to be at once logical, eternal, and durational, it is crucial that there is no particular object, even the most general one, for being grateful. If there were an object, then my gratefulness would necessarily follow a uniquely consequentialist temporal logic whereby my object is in the past and the emotion, rational decision, and action is expressed in the present with a view of a future common well-being. Fitzgerald gives a good example for this type of general gratefulness exclusively tied to durational parameters: “A farmer might be grateful that it rained yesterday because it saved his crops.” (Fitzgerald, “Gratitude and Justice,” p. 146.) As this shows, even such a vague expression of gratefulness is necessarily tainted by a before, a now, and an after. Nature is here thanked exclusively for its teleological benevolence. But nature can be thanked otherwise and here’s how I suggest it takes place.

[22] There is indeed no equivalent to gratefulness. For example, ingratitude knows not one expression, such as “thank you.” It always expresses itself in a myriad of ways. If an ingratitude needs an expression, it is often the opposite of a word of thanks, such as “thanks for nothing,” “whatever,” or “don’t care.” Such lack, and therefore such uniqueness, shows the importance of gratefulness as a category of justice.

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