Forgiveness, resentment, and intentional agency

Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 19 (1):1-12 (2011)
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Abstract

Forgiveness is a highly personal act. Only a moral agent can forgive and the only proper object of forgiveness is a moral agent. One trait that is particularly characteristic of moral agents is selfevaluation. It is precisely this activity that is involved in a genuine act of forgiveness. According to Bishop Butler and several other contemporary philosophers, forgiveness involves foreswearing one’s resentment towards another person. Successful forgiveness, for these accounts, essentially involves overcoming oneself. An important part of this self-overcoming involves dissolving resentment. I argue that disowning resentment is a key step along the way towards successful forgiveness. In order to dissolve resentment, an individual must engage in self-reflection and selfevaluation. Frankfurt’s hierarchical theory of intentional agency provides a helpful conceptual apparatus for analyzing the act of forgiveness

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