The hardened heart: The moral dangers of not forgiving

Journal of Social Philosophy 36 (3):344–363 (2005)


When writing on forgiveness, most authors focus on when it is appropriate to forgive and the role that the offender’s attitudes play in determining the appropriateness of forgiveness. In this paper I will take a different approach. Instead of examining when forgiveness may or may not be appropriate, I discuss the moral attitude displayed by being unforgiving. I argue that we have reason to strive for forgiveness based on the kind of moral outlook we deplore in those who wrong us, and that we strive to remove from our own moral worldview. Believing someone to be unforgivable can result in the adoption of aspects of the wrongdoer’s moral outlook and so forgiveness is worth attempting for reasons unconnected to the wrongdoer’s attitudes: reasons that arise from the kinds of moral agents we strive to be.

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Jessica Wolfendale
Marquette University

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