David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Christel Fricke (ed.), The Ethics of Forgiveness. Routledge (2011)
It is widely recognised in moral philosophy that there is only something to forgive in cases of unexcused and unjustified wrongdoing. I will call this the standard view. According to this view, forgiveness presupposes that the person to be forgiven has done something that warrants blame and resentment. This standard view has not prompted much discussion in the literature on forgiveness. Most writers on forgiveness seem to accept that it only makes sense to speak of forgiveness in those cases where someone is strictly speaking to blame for having done wrong. I think, however, that the literature on forgiveness lacks an adequately nuanced account of the relationship between forgiveness, justifications and excuses. The present paper challenges the standard view among philosophers that we can only make sense of forgiveness in the context of unexcused and unjustified wrongdoing. I will propose and consider an alternative view according to which there is something to forgive in certain types of cases involving limited responsibility, that is, where a person has a justification or an excuse for her action. More precisely, the aim of this paper is twofold: First, to argue that there is something to forgive others for in certain cases where the other person is excused or justified (i.e. interpersonal forgiveness). Secondly, to argue that there is something to forgive oneself for in certain cases where one has an excuse or a justification for one’s action (i.e. self-forgiveness).
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