Apology is fundamentally a donation of a virtual self, but could more crudely be understood as a form of ritual self-murder. The phrase I am sorry carries in it a host of implications and assumptions about the relationship of action and identity. Are you what you do, or are you as a being separate from what you do? The act of apology suggests answers to the relationship between action and character that can prove emotionally satisfying if not philosophically satisfactory.

In exchange for a wrong that has been mutually agreed upon as being, in fact, a wrong, the wronging party in essence submits an idealized version of himself or herself to the wronged party. The wronging party then becomes the apologist, and transmits to the wronged party an affidavit that both affirms the fact of the crime but, simultaneously, also the illusory nature of the apologist’s character vis a vis the wrongful act. In apologizing there is an embryonic denial. The apologist says to the wronged party: I am sorry for what I did, but must also in apologizing implicitly affirm that I 1) should not have done that; 2) am no longer implicitly the kind of person who would do something like that, even though I, in fact, did it, however, and, most vitally 3) am retroactively expelling your conception of me as the type of person who would do such a thing, which is, essentially, 4) a form of moral time-travel in which the apologist reverses course on the ribbon of time and rejects, essentially murders, the previous self who committed the act in question.

Carl Hansen Manks
05 06 21