Giving Up, Expecting Hope, and Moral Transformation

Reasonable Responses: The Thought of Trudy Govier (2017)
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Open Access: Trudy Govier (FR) argues for “conditional unforgivability,” yet avers that we should never give up on a human being. She not only says it is justifiable to take a “hopeful and respectful attitude” toward one’s wrongdoers, she indicates that it is wrong not to; she says it is objectionable to adopt an attitude that any individual is “finally irredeemable” or “could never change,” because such an attitude “anticipates and communicates the worst” (137). Govier’s recommendation to hold a hopeful attitude seems to follow from one’s knowing that an appropriate object of unforgivability is also an agent capable of moral transformation. I appeal to Blake Myers-Schultz’s and Eric Schwitzgebels’ account of knowledge without belief, and Schwitzgebels’ account of attitudes, to argue that a victim’s knowledge that a wrongdoer has the capacities of a moral agent does not entail belief in the possibility that a wrongdoer will exercise those moral capacities, nor does knowledge of a wrongdoer’s moral capacities entail hopeful attitudes toward the prospects of an individual wrongdoer’s moral transformation. I conclude that what victims can hope for should not be that which victims are held to as a moral minimum.



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Kathryn J. Norlock
Trent University

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