Supererogatory Forgiveness

Inquiry 53 (6):540-564 (2010)
While forgiveness is widely recognised as an example of a supererogatory action, it remains to be explained precisely what makes forgiveness supererogatory, or the circumstances under which it is supererogatory to forgive. Philosophers often claim that forgiveness is supererogatory, but most of the time they do so without offering an adequate explanation for why it is supererogatory to forgive. Accordingly, the literature on forgiveness lacks a sufficiently nuanced account of the supererogatory status of forgiveness. In this paper, I seek to remedy this shortcoming by offering a systematic account of forgiveness as an example of a supererogatory action. In terms of explaining the supererogatory status of forgiveness, I will argue that, to qualify as supererogatory, a forgiving action must fulfil three conditions: (i) it must be permissible; (ii) it must not be obligatory; and (iii) it must be good or praiseworthy, that is, it must have a certain moral value. Moreover, a distinction is drawn between “unconditional” and “conditional” forgiveness. I argue that conditional forgiveness (i.e. forgiveness of repentant wrongdoers) is sometimes a duty and sometimes supererogatory, whereas unconditional forgiveness (i.e. forgiveness of unrepentant wrongdoers) is typically supererogatory or beyond duty.
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DOI 10.1080/0020174X.2010.526320
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References found in this work BETA
Thomas Scanlon (1998). What We Owe to Each Other. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Pamela Hieronymi (2001). Articulating an Uncompromising Forgiveness. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3):529-555.
David Novitz (1998). Forgiveness and Self-Respect. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58 (2):299-315.

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Citations of this work BETA
Oliver Hallich (2013). Can the Paradox of Forgiveness Be Dissolved? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):999-1017.
D. K. Levy (2015). Assimilating Supererogation. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 77:227-242.
Espen Gamlund (2010). The Duty to Forgive Repentant Wrongdoers. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 18 (5):651-671.

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