reconciling With Harm: An Alternative To Forgiveness And Revenge

Florida Philosophical Review 10 (1):88-111 (2010)

Nancy Stanlick
University of Central Florida
With respect to wrongdoing and harm, most accounts of forgiveness focus on benefits of forgiving to the forgiver and others; some advocate vengeance against a wrongdoer; and others argue for reconciliation. However, forgiveness, revenge, and traditional reconciliation may be impossible, inappropriate, or morally undesirable in cases in which people suffer from wounds and scars not healed by time that can and do alter irrevocably one’s ability to make choices, take actions, or enjoy life fully. In these cases, a form of “reconciliation” that is morally appropriate and morally preferable is reconciliation with, but not to, harm. I argue for an alternative conception of reactions to wrongdoing, wrongdoers, and harm that is a moral competitor to forgiveness, revenge, and traditional reconciliation that centers on the sufferer of harm. Reconciling with harm is morally superior to traditional notions of forgiveness, revenge, and reconciliation with a perpetrator, all of which give more power to the perpetrator than is warranted and less to the harmed person than is deserved. Reconciling with harm is therefore an affirmation of the value of the harmed person and, I argue, a virtue to be cultivated
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