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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerhouse of wisdom and ideas
This little book immediately hooks you with the authors conviction and lucidity of thought. This is fresh and exciting thinking. Richard Holloway is a name that will alienate many readers because of his"controversial" views, but, read with a spirit of inquiry, this is tremendously rewarding reading.
He uses his source material well to illustrate his...
Published on 28 Aug 2002 by Adam

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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing fresh on forgiveness

This slight book reflects all of the values and also the limitations of an author who, since retiring as a heroic liberal bishop in Scotland, has found no need to be constrained by the shackles of the institutional church, and now advises in the arts. I read the book (less than 100 pages) in an hour or so, wondering if he would reveal an understanding and...
Published on 21 Oct 2003 by Dr Andrew Knock


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerhouse of wisdom and ideas, 28 Aug 2002
By 
Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? (Paperback)
This little book immediately hooks you with the authors conviction and lucidity of thought. This is fresh and exciting thinking. Richard Holloway is a name that will alienate many readers because of his"controversial" views, but, read with a spirit of inquiry, this is tremendously rewarding reading.
He uses his source material well to illustrate his arguments (ranging from the Bible to Nietzche).
His main argument is that forgiveness of past wrongs liberates the future.
He deals with this on the individual and collective level. He deals with those acts of such magnitude they may be deemed 'unforgiveable' and where only the grace of 'unconditional forgiveness' (a rare gift) will work.
This will certainly lead me to explore Richard Holloway's other works.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and deeply affecting, 29 Aug 2002
This review is from: On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? (Paperback)
'On Forgiveness' is dedicated to Desmond Tutu and takes as its epigraph a passage from Jacques Derrida's essay of the same title. There can be little higher praise than that it is worthy of these associations.
Holloway provides a short and eminently accessible introduction to the subject and its heritage in the Abrahamic religions. Without straying into theology, he is able to give a powerful demonstration of the importance of his subject while shedding significant light on Derrida's somewhat enigmatic position. His concluding reflections on the conflicts which dominate world affairs today are thought-provoking and deeply moving.
It is difficult to avoid reflecting that if more people were to think as carefully and clearly as Richard Holloway, there would many fewer persisting tragedies of this sort.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing fresh on forgiveness, 21 Oct 2003
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This review is from: On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? (Paperback)

This slight book reflects all of the values and also the limitations of an author who, since retiring as a heroic liberal bishop in Scotland, has found no need to be constrained by the shackles of the institutional church, and now advises in the arts. I read the book (less than 100 pages) in an hour or so, wondering if he would reveal an understanding and experience of forgiveness beyond the institutional church, getting away from the assumption that forgiveness is largely a religious matter. The answer is No.
To be sure, he writes fairly well against traditional general ideas of God and claims to exclusive and revealed truth in his first chapter, though his "Godless Morality" is a better introduction. Holloway is at his best in the second and third chapters, writing about the messes we all get into - victim and wrongdoer - when we do not let go of the past; and the damage caused by not forgiving, even when one is seeking the apparently virtuous role of judging with truth. Indeed, his prose here is sometimes memorable and beautiful, releasing the poetic imagery found in his best books.
But his final chapter, in which he tries to describe unconditional forgiveness, reads like a so-so sermon from his file. He gives no personal examples of forgiving from his life or from others, and does not seem to have any fresh insight into what forgiving means or costs. So it's a very disappointing book for anyone hoping for a direction towards finding forgiveness, or for insight into how to forgive or to help others to do so; significantly Holloway does not refer to any major teachers or trainers in forgiveness apart from Desmond Tutu. One for fans of Holloway rather than fans of forgiveness.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short book, profound and thought provoking, 12 Aug 2009
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? (Paperback)
This is a short, small book on a topic which would could easily be expanded upon into a protracted and expansive series of volumes. It does have an unpolished feel about it, as one other reviewer said, there are some stops and starts in continuity and themes or perspectives keep popping up across chapters.

This could cause real annoyance I suppose if you are apt to be really bothered by the continuity of writing in philosophical books but I wasnt perturbed and thought it made the book re-readable. The clerical/priestly background of the author is obvious, not simply from some of the references and recollections herein but also the meditative style of writing, its a book which can be simply read or given considered attention/prompt reflection.

There are four chapters, the first "Religion Without Religion" makes some net points about the use of language, terminology and concepts, and in a concise way outlines what Nureo-Linguistic Programming has to say about filters obstructing communication. This chapter deals with the conceptualisation of forgiveness and norms associated with it as emerging from or being best articulated by religions, however ill conceived modern readers may find those religions themselves.

The second chapter "Reclaiming The Future" deals with human needs for forgiveness and to forgive, suggesting that those incapable of forgiveness, giving or receiving forgiveness, could become "stuck in the moment". The author discusses this at the level of individual and group functioning, it is psychological aswell as philosophical in tone and deals with concepts of determinism which are reintroduced from that point on in the other chapters.

The third chapter "Managing The Chaos" discusses how individual needs for forgiveness or forgiving, elaborates upon conditional forgiveness, ie that those seeking forgiveness are penitent, recognise their error, and discusses again some detail about determinism. At this point there is consideration of the extent to which a distinction should be made between behaviours and individuals, the author considering that behaviour can be reprehensible, while the individual themselves may behave so because of myriad factors beyong their control. There is consideration given to the natural inclination towards reparation, revenge and getting even in humankind and equally acknowledging the unwillingness of some who have been victimised/survived wrongs to forgive, at least for a time.

The final chapter is "Redeeming The Chaos" which deals with forgiving the unforgivable and the unconditional forgiveness, this chapter has perhaps the most religious import and I had a strong sense that this is where the authors main interest lay. There is examination of the Mosaic laws and how they sought to impose proportionality upon those seeking reparation or righting wrongs but then a focus upon Jesus' teaching about a new kind of restorative, reciprocal norm of forgiveness. Essentially "unnatural" it asks an incredible thing of humankind.

I've seen few books on this topic which are not straight religious texts, still less which are not simply encouragement for embattled or embittered believers, so I can recommend this and would like to see it reach a wider audience.

On the downside it is peppered with useful and interesting quotes from poems, scriptures, psychology, philosophy which only left me as a reader wanting to read much more of the original sources. Some aspects such as the willingness to forgive or psychological utility of giving and receiving of forgiveness felt glanced over or could really do with more detailed consideration.

For instance, the author acknowledges the unwillingness to forgive, the historic norms recognising natural inclinations to seek revenge or reparation but spends little time on this, suggesting that eventually forgiveness will be required to have a future.

I felt more time could have been spent on this, the dictates of my faith require forgiveness, there are sound reasons to forgive, most of those outlined herein. However with all reflection in the world I can not honestly say that institutionalising forgiveness and second chances has delivered either safety or sufficient relief to those who have suffered for the wrong doing of others. This is not really a criticism of the author or this book though and I would say any philosopher, theologian, psychologist, therapist or casual reader could benefit from reading this.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars unexamined unpolished argument; mediocre book, 21 Feb 2003
By 
"hklivingston" (New York / London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? (Paperback)
While the basic idea of releasing a victim from the burdens of victimhood, by forgiving without prompting is fine in itself, Mr Holloway has evidently had limited chance to have his argument examined, much less refined.
With all its weak points uncorrected, even its presentation unpolished, he ends up failing to persuade. And countless digressions into interesting-but-irrelevant points further undermine his argument, therefore its very credibility.
A very short book of less than a hundred pages, which could have put the point forward in about ten.
Definitely mediocre. Not a total waste of time, but best read from a borrowed copy.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 'Ethical monotheism' : A problematic concept !, 16 Mar 2012
This review is from: On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? (Paperback)
This short book is admirable in its intent, and gives due prominence to Nietszche and Freud, the authoritative voices on the matter,(imo), but I can't help thinking that the author's own provenance is an encumberance to his argument. Understandably, as the Church pays his pension, if not his wages, he overemphasises the importance of what he calls 'ethical monotheism' in the evolution of altruism.
I strongly agree with this statement he makes : 'this mood of acceptance of the benign indifference of the world is close to the springs of what we mean by forgiveness'.... But 'benign indifference' and an omnipotent or omniscient God are awkward bedfellows.
Holloway is a well-meaning cove, but he should learn to stop apologising for his old bosses.
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On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable?
On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? by Richard Holloway (Paperback - 9 Feb 2002)
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