The Problem of the Gift

Robyn Horner

in Rethinking God as Gift

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780823221219
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235599 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

The Problem of the Gift

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This chapter addresses the question and the impossibility of the gift. A gift is any object given by one person to another gratuitously. This gratuitousness is emphasized as an essential part of the gift: a gift has to be given in a certain spirit if it is to be a gift at all, and that spirit is sheer generosity. When there are strings attached, what is given is no longer a gift, but a bribe or something that is meant to embarrass. The discussion looks into the work of Russell Belk who tries to define the characteristics of a perfect gift. The chapter notes two dimensions of gift-giving that make it problematic. It depends on the relation between freedom and economy, and the relation between presence and economy. The chapter argues that, according to Derrida, the gift cannot be phenomenologically described.

Keywords: impossibility; perfect gift; gratuitousness; generosity; Russell Belk; freedom; economy; presence

Chapter.  7871 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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