Social Philosophy and Policy 36 (1):27-51 (2019)

Authors
Macalester Bell
Bryn Mawr College
Abstract
:Resentment and other hard feelings may outlive their targets, and people often express a desire to overcome these feelings through forgiveness. While some see forgiving the dead as an important moral accomplishment, others deny that genuine forgiveness of the dead is coherent, let alone desirable or valuable. According to one line of thought, forgiveness is something we do for certain reasons, such as the offender’s expressed contrition. Given that the dead cannot express remorse, forgiveness of the dead is impossible. Others see the apparent coherence and moral importance of forgiving the dead as a reason to give up on the idea that forgiveness is conditional upon the offender’s remorse. According to these philosophers, forgiveness of the dead poses no special problems; forgiveness of the dead, like forgiveness of the living, is not contingent upon the offender’s contrition. I steer a path between these two positions in such a way as to bring out an important aspect of forgiveness that is not adequately addressed in the literature: I argue that forgiving the dead may be perfectly coherent and morally valuable even though the dead cannot ask for forgiveness or engage in reparative activities. A full appreciation of the relational character of forgiveness allows us to make sense of forgiving the dead.
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DOI 10.1017/s0265052519000281
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References found in this work BETA

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