The question of forgiveness in politics has attained a certain cachet. Indeed, in the fifty years since Arendt commented on the notable absence of forgiveness in the political tradition, a vast and multidisciplinary literature on the politics of apology, reparation, and reconciliation has emerged. To a novice scouring the relevant literatures, it might appear that the only discordant note in this new veritable symphony of writings on political forgiveness has been sounded by philosophers. There is a more-than-healthy (...) cynicism directed at what many philosophers see as an uncritical promotion of forgiveness, which – they fear – risks distorting and cheapening forgiveness as a moral ideal, on the one hand, and ignoring the moral and political values of justice, accountability and the cessation of harmful relationships, on the other. Are philosophical fears about the dangers of thinking about forgiveness in political terms warranted – or do they perhaps depend in part on conceptual conservatism regarding what exactly political forgiveness might be? I argue that most, if not all, standard objections to political forgiveness emerge from theoretical reliance on a picture of forgiveness I will call the Emotional Model. Once we make conceptual space for descriptions of forgiveness in performative and social terms, the concept is more easily adapted to a political account without at least some of the risks feared by philosophers. (shrink)
Forgiveness and reconciliation are central to moral life; after all, everyone will be wronged by others and will then face the dual decisions of whether to forgive and whether to reconcile. It is therefore important that we have a clear analysis of each, as well as a thoroughly articulated understanding of how they relate to and differ from each other. -/- Forgiveness has received considerably more attention in the Western philosophical literature than has reconciliation. In this paper I (...) aim to give it the attention it deserves and develop an account of interpersonal reconciliation. On my view reconciliation is fundamentally bilateral (whereas forgiveness is fundamentally unilateral). It entails transparency and agreement between the wrongdoer and the victim as to the nature of a past wrong or set of wrongs. And, it requires that moral repair be made between the two parties (which entails that both parties bear proper attitudes towards each other). In making my case I contrast reconciliation with toleration and collaboration, in order to demonstrate that reconciliation also entails forgiveness (though forgiveness does not entail reconciliation). (shrink)
There seems to be confusion and disagreement among scholars about the meaning of interpersonal forgiveness. In this essay we shall venture to clarify the meaning of forgiveness by examining various literary works. In particular, we shall discuss instances of forgiveness from Homer’s The Iliad, Euripides’ Hippolytus, and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and we shall focus on the changes that the concept of forgiveness has gone through throughout the centuries, in the hope of being able to understand, and (...) therefore, of being able to use more accurately, contemporary notions of forgiveness. We shall also explore the relationship between forgiveness and concepts that are closely associated with it, such as anger/resentment, hurt, clemency, desert/merit, excuse, etc. (shrink)
While most scholars focus on the advantages of forgiveness, the negative effects of hasty forgiveness have been largely neglected in the literature. In this essay I shall argue that in certain contexts granting forgiveness to a wrongdoer could be morally questionable, and sometimes it could even be morally wrong. Following Aristotle’s view of emotion, and, in particular, his notion of virtuous anger, I shall claim that appropriate, righteous anger is instrumental for justice, and, as a result, inappropriate, (...) or imprudent forgiveness could be an impediment to justice, or even a license for the continuation of injustice. (shrink)
The categorical denial of third-party forgiveness represents an overly individualistic approach to moral repair. Such an approach fails to acknowledge the important roles played by witnesses, bystanders, beneficiaries, and others who stand in solidarity to the primary victim and perpetrator. In this paper, I argue that the prerogative to forgive or withhold forgiveness is not universal, but neither is it restricted to victims alone. Not only can we make moral sense of some third-party acts and utterances of the (...) form, “I can or cannot forgive…” but also, we ought to recognize them as legitimate instances of third party forgiveness. Concern for the primary victim’s autonomy tends to exaggerate a need for moral deference, while ignoring how others are called upon to support and mediate for victims of violence and oppression. I advocate a cautious extension of the victim’s prerogative to forgive, one that grounds forgiveness in a double relation of sympathetic identification and attentive care. Following Jean Harvey’s recent work, I call this relationship moral solidarity. Furthermore, I argue, there are important moral and political reasons to acknowledge third party forgiveness; these reasons are particularly evident in contexts of oppression. In fact, third party refusals to forgive may have particular moral significance. In situations of abuse, oppression and damaged self-respect, third party refusals may protect the agency of victims who too easily forgive. (shrink)
A study of the ways Maimonides and Aquinas both borrow from Aristotle and depart from him, in regard to the issue of forgiveness. The paper explicates moral-psychological issues and normative issues, connecting them to the perfectionism of the philosophical anthropology shared by the three thinkers. The theistic commitments of Maimonides and Aquinas ground important departures from Aristotle regarding the possibility of moral change and regarding moral relations between persons.
According to standard philosophical analyses, only victims can forgive. There are good reasons to reject this view. After all, people who are neither direct nor indirect victims of a wrong frequently feel moral anger over injustice. The choice to foreswear or overcome such moral anger is subject to most of the same sorts of considerations as victims’ choices to forgive. Furthermore, bystanders’ reactions to their experiences of moral anger often reflect either virtues or vices that are of a piece with (...) what we normally describe as a forgiving or unforgiving disposition. In this paper, I reject the view that only victims can forgive by comparing the experience and regulation of moral anger by victims and bystanders. The virtues of victims and bystanders with regard to moral anger are so similar that there is no good reason to apply different labels. However, the recognition of forgiveness in bystanders offers us more than simple consistency. It also leads us to think about the role moral bystanders play in the maintenance of the moral community, as well as the ways in which this role can be abused or overstepped. (shrink)
Nearly everyone has wronged another. Who among us has not longed to be forgiven? Who has not struggled to forgive? Charles Griswold has written the first comprehensive philosophical book on forgiveness in both its interpersonal and political contexts, as well as its relation to reconciliation. Having examined the place of forgiveness in ancient philosophy and in modern thought, he discusses what forgiveness is, what conditions the parties to it must meet, its relation to revenge and hatred, when (...) it is permissible and whether it is obligatory, and why it is a virtue. Griswold argues that forgiveness is inappropriate in politics, and analyzes the nature and limits of political apology with reference to historical examples. The book concludes with an examination of the relation between memory, narrative, and truth. (shrink)
It is sometimes claimed that forgiveness involves the cancellation of a moral debt. This way of speaking about forgiveness exploits an analogy between moral forgiveness and economic debt-cancellation. Call the view that moral forgiveness is like economic debt-cancellation the Economic Model of Forgiveness. In this article I articulate and motivate the model, defend it against some recent objections, and pose a new puzzle for this way of thinking about forgiveness.
In a world that has become increasingly dependent upon employee ownership, commitment, and initiative, organizations need leaders who can inspire their␣employees and motivate them individually. Love, forgiveness, and trust are critical values of today’s organization leaders who are committed to maximizing value for organizations while helping organization members to become their best. We explain the importance of love, forgiveness, and trust in the modern organization and identify 10 commonalities of these virtues.
Philosophers writing on forgiveness typically defend the Resentment Theory of Forgiveness, the view that forgiveness is the overcoming of resentment. Rarely is much more said about the nature of resentment or how it is overcome when one forgives. Pamela Hieronymi, however, has advanced detailed accounts both of the nature of resentment and how one overcomes resentment when one forgives. In this paper, I argue that Hieronymi’s account of the nature of forgiveness is committed to two implausible (...) claims about the norms bearing on forgiveness. Her account is highly instructive, however, for it brings into relief how certain intuitive views about the norms of forgiveness should be used to constrain our theories about its nature. I conclude by defending this methodological proposal. (shrink)
In this paper we explore the relationship between forgiving and punishment. We set out a number of arguments for the claim that if one forgives a wrongdoer, one should not punish her. We then argue that none of these arguments is persuasive. We conclude by reflecting on the possibility of institutional forgiveness in the criminal justice setting and on the differences between forgiveness and acts of mercy.
Philosophers often claim that forgiveness is a paradoxical phenomenon. I here examine two of the most widespread ways of dealing with the paradoxical nature of forgiveness. One of these ways, emblematized by Aurel Kolnai, seeks to resolve the paradox by appealing to the idea of repentance. Somehow, if a wrongdoer repents, then forgiving her is no longer paradoxical. I argue that this influential position faces more problems than it solves. The other way to approach the paradox, exemplified here (...) by the work of Jacques Derrida, is just too obscure to be by itself helpful. Yet, I argue that what I take to be its spirit is on the right track. I recommend distinguishing between the definition and the justification of forgiveness, and also between forgiveness understood as a mental phenomenon and an overt, communicative act. These distinctions are not given their due in the specialized literature, and I expose the nefarious consequences of this neglect. By focusing on forgiveness as a mental phenomenon I seek to analyze the root of the talk of paradoxes which surrounds the discussion of forgiveness. Finally, I present an analysis of forgiveness as a pure mental phenomenon, and argue that this analysis is the most important step in understanding forgiveness in any other sense. While my analysis reveals interesting aspects of forgiveness, it reveals, too, that forgiveness is not quite as paradoxical after all. (shrink)
In this paper, we set out to test empirically an idea that many philosophers find intuitive, namely that non-moral ignorance can exculpate. Many philosophers find it intuitive that moral agents are responsible only if they know the particular facts surrounding their action. Our results show that whether moral agents are aware of the facts surrounding their action does have an effect on people’s attributions of blame, regardless of the consequences or side effects of the agent’s actions. In general, it was (...) more likely that a situationally aware agent will be blamed for failing to perform the obligatory action than a situationally unaware agent. We also tested attributions of forgiveness in addition to attributions of blame. In general, it was less likely that a situationally aware agent will be forgiven for failing to perform the obligatory action than a situationally unaware agent. When the agent is situationally unaware, it is more likely that the agent will be forgiven than blamed. We argue that these results provide some empirical support for the hypothesis that there is something intuitive about the idea that non-moral ignorance can exculpate. (shrink)
Forgiveness is typically regarded as a good thing - even a virtue - but acts of forgiveness can vary widely in value, depending on their context and motivation. Faced with this variation, philosophers have tended to reinforce everyday concepts of forgiveness with strict sets of conditions, creating ideals or paradigms of forgiveness. These are meant to distinguish good or praiseworthy instances of forgiveness from problematic instances and, in particular, to protect the self-respect of would-be forgivers. (...) But paradigmatic forgiveness is problematic for a number of reasons, including its inattention to forgiveness as a gendered trait. We can account for the values and the risks associated with forgiving far better if we treat it as a moral practice and not an ideal. (shrink)
ABSTRACTP.F. Strawson claimed that forgiveness is such an essential part of our moral practices that we could not extricate it from our form of life even if we so desired. But what is it about forgiveness that would make it such a central feature of our moral experience? In this paper, I suggest that the answer has to do with what I will call the normative significance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is normatively significant in the sense that, (...) in its paradigmatic instances, forgiving alters the operative norms bearing on the interaction between the victim and the wrongdoer in certain characteristic ways. My project here is, first, to clarify the ways that paradigmatic cases of forgiveness alter the norms of interaction between victim and wrongdoer and to argue that it is in this respect that forgiveness is a normatively significant feature of our moral responsibility practices. Second, I show that most extant theories of forgiveness fail to explain the characteristic ways in which forgiving alters norms. Th... (shrink)
In this paper, I begin with a familiar puzzle about forgiveness, namely, how to distinguish forgiveness from excuse on the one hand and “letting go” on the other. After considering three recent and influential accounts of forgiveness that offer answers to this challenge among others, I develop an alternative model of forgiveness as a kind of personal release from debt or obligation. I argue that this model has a number of distinct advantages, including offering a new (...) explanation of the subtle connections between forgiveness, resentment and perspective taking, as well as helping to provide plausible answers to normative questions such as whether forgiveness is ever morally required. Finally, I draw connections between the debate about forgiveness and the debate about free will, and suggest one way in which the compatibility of forgiveness and understanding of an action’s causes can illuminate the debate about the compatibility of freedom and determinism. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that we can learn much about wild justice and the evolutionary origins of social morality – behaving fairly – by studying social play behavior in group-living animals, and that interdisciplinary cooperation will help immensely. In our efforts to learn more about the evolution of morality we need to broaden our comparative research to include animals other than non-human primates. If one is a good Darwinian, it is premature to claim that only humans can be empathic (...) and moral beings. By asking the question What is it like to be another animal? we can discover rules of engagement that guide animals in their social encounters. When I study dogs, for example, I try to be a dogocentrist and practice dogomorphism. My major arguments center on the following big questions: Can animals be moral beings or do they merely act as if they are? What are the evolutionary roots of cooperation, fairness, trust, forgiveness, and morality? What do animals do when they engage in social play? How do animals negotiate agreements to cooperate, to forgive, to behave fairly, to develop trust? Can animals forgive? Why cooperate and play fairly? Why did play evolve as it has? Does being fair mean being more fit – do individual variations in play influence an individual''s reproductive fitness, are more virtuous individuals more fit than less virtuous individuals? What is the taxonomic distribution of cognitive skills and emotional capacities necessary for individuals to be able to behave fairly, to empathize, to behave morally? Can we use information about moral behavior in animals to help us understand ourselves? I conclude that there is strong selection for cooperative fair play in which individuals establish and maintain a social contract to play because there are mutual benefits when individuals adopt this strategy and group stability may be also be fostered. Numerous mechanisms have evolved to facilitate the initiation and maintenance of social play to keep others engaged, so that agreeing to play fairly and the resulting benefits of doing so can be readily achieved. I also claim that the ability to make accurate predictions about what an individual is likely to do in a given social situation is a useful litmus test for explaining what might be happening in an individual''s brain during social encounters, and that intentional or representational explanations are often important for making these predictions. (shrink)
What does it mean to forgive? The answer is widely assumed to be self-evident but critical analysis quickly reveals the complexities of the subject. Forgiveness has traditionally been the preserve of Christian theology, though in the last half century - and at an accelerating pace - psychologists, lawyers, politicians and moral philosophers have all been making an important contribution to questions about and our understanding of the subject. Anthony Bash offers a vigorous restatement of the Christian view of (...) class='Hi'>forgiveness in critical dialogue with those both within and without the Christian tradition. Forgiveness is a much more complicated subject than many theologians recognize. Bash explores the relevance of the theoretical discussion of the topic to recent events such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, post-Holocaust trials, the aftermath of 9/11 and July 7 and various high-profile criminal cases. (shrink)
Forgiveness and reconciliation have been shown to be beneficial alternatives to revenge as responses to an interpersonal offense in the workplace. Prior research on these topics, however, is often narrow in scope, focusing on only the victim. Moreover, existing research is often unclear about the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation. In response, this article proposes a conceptual framework of forgiveness, reconciliation, and their respective antecedents which is both multi-level and interdisciplinary. This framework is used to review the (...) nascent management-related research on forgiveness and reconciliation, and to augment this research from other fields, especially social psychology. Future research directions and managerial implications are proposed based on the multi-level model and research from other fields. (shrink)
Our century has witnessed violence on an unprecedented scale, in wars that have torn deep into the fabric of national and international life. And as we can see in the recent strife in Bosnia, genocide in Rwanda, and the ongoing struggle to control nuclear weaponry, ancient enmities continue to threaten the lives of masses of human beings. As never before, the question is urgent and practical: How can nations--or ethnic groups, or races--after long, bitter struggles, learn to live side by (...) side in peace? In An Ethic for Enemies, Donald W. Shriver, Jr., President Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, argues that the solution lies in our capacity to forgive. Taking forgiveness out of its traditional exclusive association with personal religion and morality, Shriver urges us to recognize its importance in the secular political arena. The heart of the book examines three powerful and moving cases from recent American history--our postwar dealings with Germany, with Japan, and our continuing domestic problem with race relations--cases in which acts of forgiveness have had important political consequences. Shriver traces how postwar Germany, in its struggle to break with its political past, progressed from denial of a Nazi past, to a formal acknowledgement of the crimes of Nazi Germany, to providing material compensation for survivors of the Holocaust. He also examines the efforts of Japan and the United States, over time and across boundaries of race and culture, to forgive the wrongs committed by both peoples during the Pacific War. And finally he offers a fascinating discussion of the role of forgiveness in the American civil rights movement. He shows, for instance, that even Malcolm X recognized the need to move from contempt for the integrationist ideal to a more conciliatory, repentant stance toward Civil Rights leaders. Malcolm came to see that only through forgiveness could the separate voices of the African-American movement work together to achieve their goals. If mutual forgiveness was a radical thought in 1964, Shriver reminds us that it has yet to be realized in 1994. "We are a long way from ceasing to hold the sins of the ancestors against their living children," he writes. Yet in this poignant volume, we discover how, by forgiving, enemies can progress and have progressed toward peace. A timely antidote to today's political conflicts, An Ethic for Enemies challenges to us to confront the hatreds that cripple society and threaten to destroy the global village. (shrink)
It is sometimes thought that the normative justification for responding to large-scale violations of human rights via the judicial appararatus of trial and punishment is undermined by the desirability of reconciliation between conflicting parties as part of the process of conflict resolution. I take there to be philosophical, as well as practical and psychological issues involved here: on some conceptions of punishment and reconciliation, the attitudes that they involve conflict with one another on rational grounds. But I shall argue that (...) there is a conception of political reconciliation available which does not involve forgiveness and this forms of reconciliation may be the best we can hope for in many conflicts. Reconciliation is nevertheless likely to require the expression of what Darrell Moellendorf has called 'political regret' and the denunciatory role aspect of punishment makes it particularly well-suited to this role. (shrink)
The “paradox of forgiveness” can be described as follows: Forgiving, unlike forgetting, is tied to reasons. It is a response to considerations that lead us to think that we ought to forgive. On the other hand, acts of forgiveness, unlike excuses, are responses to instances of culpable wrongdoing. If, however, the wrongdoing is culpable, there is (or seems to be) no reason to forgive it. So two mutually exclusive theses about forgiveness both seem to be equally warranted: (...)Forgiveness is related to reasons, but there can be no reasons for forgiveness. In this paper, I attempt to dissolve this paradox. I argue that the paradox arises as a result of a too narrow conception of “reason” and that it can be dissolved if we acknowledge different kinds of reasons for forgiveness. More specifically, I examine three kinds of reasons for forgiving an act of wrongdoing: (1) Moral reasons that make forgiveness morally mandatory. (2) Prudential reasons for forgiveness. (3) Moral reasons that pertain to the character of the forgiver and that favor forgiveness without making it morally mandatory. I show that while the paradox of forgiveness arises when we consider reasons of the first kind, it can be dissolved with recourse to reasons of the second and third kind. The upshot of the argument is that we can be rational in deciding to overcome our feelings of resentment towards an act of unjustified and unexcused wrongdoing—and this is a strong point in favor of forgiveness. (shrink)
The concept of respect for persons is often rejected as a basis for understanding forgiveness. As many have argued, to hold your offender responsible for her actions is to respect her as a person; but this kind of respect is more likely to sustain, rather than dissolve, your resentment toward her (Garrard & McNaughton 2003; 2011; Allais 2008). I seek to defend an alternative view in this paper. To forgive, on my account, involves ceasing to identify your offender with (...) her wrongdoing, and this requires a corresponding affective change on your behalf. While there are different ways this may happen, I argue that respect for your offender as a person can play a significant role in the process. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: 1. Introduction and overview; 2. The nature of forgiveness and resentment; 3. The moral analysis of the attitudes of forgiveness and resentment defined; 4. The moral analysis of the attitudes of self-forgiveness and self-condemnation; 5. Philosophical underpinnings of the basic attitudes: forgiveness, resentment, and the nature of persons; 6. Moral theory: justice and desert; 7. The public response to wrongdoing; 8. Restorative justice: the public response to wrongdoing and the process of addressing (...) the wrong. (shrink)
The idea of self-forgiveness poses a serious challenge to any philosopher interested in giving a general account of forgiveness. On the one hand, it is an uncontroversial part of our common psychological and moral discourse. On the other, any account of self-forgiveness is inconsistent with any general account of forgiveness which implies that only the victim of an offense can forgive. To avoid this conclusion, one must either challenge the particular claims that preclude self-forgiveness or (...) offer an independently plausible account of self-forgiveness. I deploy both strategies in this article, explaining what self-forgiveness is and how it is possible. (shrink)
I argue that the effectiveness of forgiveness in the healing of relationships is dependent on both the givers and recipients of forgiveness understanding that once it has been granted, forgiveness is not normally able to be retracted. When we forgive, we make a firm commitment not to return to our former state of moral resentment against the offender, replacing it by good-will. This commitment can be broken only where the forgiving party makes some significant cognitive adjustment to (...) her appraisal of either the offender or the offence, believing that her original forgiveness was granted in error. I reject the view that forgiveness can lapse or be withdrawn on the basis of a return of hurt or disappointed feelings, arguing that these do not amount to a restoration of the resentment that is extinguished when forgiveness is granted. I contend that a person who ‘forgives’ and later takes back that ‘forgiveness’ because certain negative feelings have returned either did not genuinely forgive in the first place or shows that she has not fully grasped the nature of forgiveness. (shrink)
In this monograph, I offer feminist reasons to develop a multidimensional account of forgiveness as a moral, and therefore at least partially deliberative, action or set of actions, which functions as a remedy in responding to blame or condemnation, releasing offenders from the fullness of their blameworthiness, in relational contexts which therefore require considerations of power between relata. I rely on feminist philosophical account of the relational self in order to contextualise these power relations. I provide accounts of (...) class='Hi'>forgiveness as a performative utterance, third-party forgiveness, and self-forgiveness based upon this feminist and multidimensional model of forgiveness. (shrink)
The paper responds to those who argue that it is morally objectionable to forgive the unapologetic. I argue that it is both possible and permissible to forgive the unapologetic. Along the way the analysis sheds light on the relationship between forgiveness and trust, condonation, self-respect, punishment, justice and apology.
In recent decades, it has been argued that the modern concept of forgiveness is absent from Aristotle’s conception of συγγνώμη as it appears in his Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics. In this paper, I argue that Aristotle’s view is more modern than it might appear. I defend the idea that Aristotle’s treatment of συγγνώμη, when seen in conjunction with his theory of ethical decision, involuntary action, and character alteration, commits him to a cognitive and emotional theory of forgiveness that (...) is both well-grounded and thoroughly modern. I go on to claim that Aristotle’s view of συγγνώμη helps to solve at least four controversial problems about the nature of forgiveness raised by modern philosophers: how one can forgive a wrong without condoning it, whether forgiveness is a duty, whether moral luck requires us to forgive more widely, and whether forgiveness ought to be unconditional. (shrink)
One account of forgiveness claims that to forgive is to forbear punishment. Call this the Punishment-Forbearance Account of forgiveness. In this paper I argue that forbearing punishment is neither necessary nor sufficient for forgiveness.
In the wake of the Dylann Roof church shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, forgiveness became a focus of the discussion. Within 48 hours of the shooting, several family members of the victims made personal offers of forgiveness to Dylann Roof. The flood of editorials and opinion pieces commenting on this offer of forgiveness revealed a deep division in public attitudes toward forgiveness, particularly in the context of racially motivated crimes. In this article, (...) I explore the ethics of forgiveness, raising questions about the limits and possibilities of forgiveness in the broader context of social injustice. I defend the view that forgiveness can function as act of social resistance. Against some who think that forgiveness functions primarily as an interpersonal act, I will offer reasons to think that forgiveness can play a socially constructive role. And so I will argue for the value and practice of a social forgiveness, over and above whatever occurs at the interpersonal level. (shrink)
I start by presenting an intuitively appealing account of forgiveness, ‘the insult account’, which nicely explains the cycle from wrongdoing to forgiveness. We need to respond to wrongdoing by blaming our offenders because they insult us with their actions, 529–55, 2001; Hampton 1988a, b). How can wrongdoing be overcome? Either by the retraction of the insult or by taking necessary steps to correct for the wrong done. Once the insult has been retracted, usually by apology or remorse, (...) class='Hi'>forgiveness can come about. Martin The Journal of Philosophy, 107, 534–53, has recently criticized this promising account of forgiveness. My aim here is to defend an improved version of the ‘insult account’. I propose an account of earned forgiveness through apology, which shares features with the ‘insult account’ criticized by Martin, but also improves upon problems found in the ‘insult account’. This new account will successfully solve the puzzle of forgiveness. Drawing on Bovens’ account of apologies, I argue that apologies uniquely earn the wrongdoer’s forgiveness. I finally address a concern about the relation between apologies and forgiveness, recently raised by Hallich Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 16, 999–1017,. I argue that my expressive view of what the function of apologies is will answer his skepticism about apologies. (shrink)
When a wrongdoing occurs, victims, barring special circumstance, can aptly forgive their wrongdoers, receive apologies, and be paid reparations. It is also uncontroversial, in the usual circumstances, that wronged parties can aptly blame their wrongdoer. But controversy arises when we consider blame from third-parties after the victim has forgiven. At times it seems that wronged parties can make blame inapt through forgiveness. If third parties blame anyway, it often appears the victim is justified in protesting. “But I forgave him!” (...) In other cases, however, forgiveness seems irrelevant: B can forgive A, but it can still seem that third parties can aptly blame A for the wrong against B. This perplexity adds a dimension to ongoing discussion regarding criteria for apt blame and the related issues of standing and fittingness. This paper explores the status of third party blame after forgiveness. I argue that while post forgiveness blame is often inapt, in many other cases forgiveness is irrelevant. This difference is explained by appeal to the various relationships third parties might have to wronged parties, and how these differences affect the ways we blame and thereby blame’s aptness. (shrink)
Forgiveness is clearly an important aspect of our moral lives, yet surprisingly Kant, one of the most important authors in the history of Western ethics, seems to have very little to say about it. Some authors explain this omission by noting that forgiveness sits uncomfortably in Kant’s moral thought: forgiveness seems to have an ineluctably ‘elective’ aspect which makes it to a certain extent arbitrary; thus it stands in tension with Kant’s claim that agents are autonomous beings, (...) capable of determining their own moral status through rational reflection and choice. Other authors recognise that forgiveness plays a role in Kant’s philosophy but fail to appreciate the nature of this duty and misrepresent the Kantian argument in support of it. This paper argues that there is space in Kant’s philosophy for a genuine theory of forgiveness and hopes to lay the grounds for a correct interpretation of this theory. I argue that from a Kantian perspective, forgiveness is not ‘elective’ but, at least in some cases, morally required. I claim that, for Kant, we have an imperfect duty of virtue to forgive repentant wrongdoers that have embarked on a project of self-reflection and self-reform. I develop a novel argument in support of this duty by drawing on Kant’s theory of rational agency, the thesis of radical evil, Kant’s theory of moral development, and the formula of humanity. However, it must be noted that this is a conditional duty and Kant’s position also entails that absence of repentance on the part of the wrongdoer should be taken as evidence of a lack of commitment to a project of self-reflection and self-reform. In such cases, Kant claims, we have a perfect duty to ourselves not to forgive unrepentant wrongdoers. I argue that this duty should be understood as one of the duties of self-esteem, which involves the duty to respect and recognise our own dignity as rational beings. (shrink)
Forgiveness as a positive response to wrongdoing is a widespread phenomenon that plays a role in the moral lives of most persons. Surprisingly, Kant has very little to say on the matter. Although Kant dedicates considerable space to discussing punishment, wrongdoing and grace, he addresses the issues of human forgiveness directly only in some short passages in the Lectures on Ethics and in one passage of the Metaphysics of Morals. As noted by Sussman, the TL passage, however, betrays (...) some ambivalence. Kant establishes a duty of virtue to be forgiving (TL, 6:460), yet he immediately warns against its excess: meek toleration of recurrent wrongs could manifest a lack of self-respect and a violation of a duty to oneself (TL, 6:461). Sussman claims that this ambivalence ultimately arises from the fact that forgiveness sits uncomfortably in Kant’s moral thought. First, forgiveness has an ‘ineluctably elective aspect’ that makes it, to a certain extent, arbitrary and dependent on particular features of the forgiver’s psychology and, as such, in tension with Kant’s central claims that human beings are autonomous agents capable of determining their own moral status. Second, according to Sussman, Kant’s moral retributivism, i.e. ‘the particular moral position that every moral wrong against another deserves punishment of the wrongdoer’ seems to be in tension with the possibility of a ‘truly redemptive forgiveness’. Moreover, forgiveness also seems to be in tension with a passage of the Religion in which Kant argues that the moral guilt from our original evil disposition cannot be understood as a debt or liability that can be compensated, erased, transferred or otherwise wiped out by others (Rel, 6:72). Thus, to the extent that forgiveness might be thought to involve the forgoing of moral guilt, it seems incompatible with Kant’s views on culpability and punishment. This chapter seeks to clarify Kant’s views on forgiveness in order to show that, although not often appreciated, personal forgiveness plays an important role in the lives of ordinary human agents as understood by Kant. In particular, I aim to show there is a conception of forgiveness available to Kant that is not incompatible with Kant’s views of punishment and culpability. In Section 1, I argue that, for Kant, far from being merely ‘elective,’ forgiveness is, under certain conditions, morally required. I provide a brief summary of an interpretation of Kant’s theory of forgiveness that I have defended in recently published work , in order to argue that Kant’s duty to be forgiving should be understood as an imperfect duty of virtue which is conditional on repentance. Kant is not ambivalent about this duty because he maintains that when the relevant conditions are not met, we have a perfect duty to ourselves not to forgive unrepentant wrongdoers. The TL passage thus identifies two different duties. In Section 2, I show that forgiveness, as conceptualised by Kant, does not require the forgoing of punishment or the overcoming of moral guilt and that this could, in fact, be seen as an attractive feature of Kant’s position. I end by offering a very brief assessment of Kant’s views. (shrink)
This work aims to identify the constituents of forgiveness in terms of the forgiver's beliefs and motivating goals. After addressing the antecedents of forgiveness—a perceived wrong—and distinguishing the notion of mere harm from that of offense, we describe the victim's typical retributive reactions—revenge and resentment—and discuss their advantages and disadvantages. Then we focus on the forgiver's mind-set, pointing to the relationship between forgiveness and acceptance of the wrong, addressing the forgiver's motivating goals, and discussing both their self-interested (...) and altruistic implications. In so doing we also discuss the role of the forgiver's positive feelings towards the offender, arguing that, however important, they are unnecessary to forgiveness. We finally identify two kinds of forgiveness—conditional and unconditional—suggesting that they are grounded on different notions of “worth.”. (shrink)
This paper provides an account of reparations in general and then presents briefly one explanation of why many present day African Americans believe they are entitled to reparations from the U.S. Government.This explanation should not be seen as a final justification, but only as an indication why the demand for reparations for AfricanAmericans might be seen a plausible. Next, if it is reasonable to assume that reparations to African Americans are plausible, I then go onto explain why reparations might be (...) necessary to fill the breech that is perceived to exist between many African Americans and their government. This explanation will involve an examination of the relationship between three concepts: forgiveness, reconciliation, and reparations. Then I explore why an apology or reparations for slavery and Jim Crow might be necessary for reconciliation between many African Americans and their government. Finally, I examine the contention that the legislative process can be used to obtain an apology or reparations from the government. (shrink)
Can there be a duty to forgive those who have wronged us? According to a popular view amongst philosophers working on forgiveness the answer is no. Forgiveness, it is claimed, is always elective. This view is rejected by Gamlund (2010a; 2010b) who argues that duties to forgive do exist and then provides conditions that are relevant to determining whether forgiveness is obligatory or supererogatory. In this paper I will argue that the conditions that Gamlund provides do not (...) provide a plausible account of the connection between forgiveness and duty. The problems I will raise against Gamlund’s view is a problem that faces any moral view that makes room for supererogation. I will then investigate whether the existing solutions to this problem provide a more plausible account of the connection between forgiveness and obligation. I will argue that the two most prominent solutions, The Favouring Reasons View and The Sacrifice View, produce implausible results when applied to the case of forgiveness. However, an alternative view, The Freedom View, can provide plausible results when applied to the case of forgiveness. This gives us defeasible reason to favour this as a general solution to The Problem of the Good Ought Tie-Up. (shrink)
IntroductionIt is clear that forgiveness is closely related to emotions. Bishop Butler’s “forswearing of resentment” is still the definition most philosophical works on the subject take as their point of departure. Some others disagree but usually only insofar as they focus on another reactive emotion – e.g., moral hatred, disappointment, anger – which we overcome when we forgive.More specifically, according to Roberts the emotion we overcome in forgiveness is anger, see Robert C. Roberts, “Forgivingness,” American Philosophical Quarterly 32 (...) (1995): 289–306. According to Richards, forgiveness involves overcoming a whole range of negative emotions including sadness, disappointment, frustration as well as resentment; see Norvin Richards, “Forgiveness,” Ethics 99 (1988): 77–97. According to Sher, forgiveness involves overcoming blame; see George Sher, In Praise of Blame (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).There is something striking about the negativity of this approach. Forgiveness i. (shrink)
The purpose of this essay is to consider the significance that Hegel grants to religious love and, with it, forgiveness in his early The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate. Although Hegel characterizes religious love in this writing as a unity that transcends reason, his association of such love with forgiveness nevertheless sheds light on an important aspect of human finitude. In this, Hegel may be seen to identify forgiveness as a form of freedom elicited by limits (...) that we encounter in practical life. The author suggests that Hegel’s approach to forgiveness, which makes use not only of themes expressed by Jesus in the Gospel but also Greek tragedy, comprises an attractive alternative to some current views. (shrink)
Abstract: Forgiveness of wrongdoing in response to public apology and amends making seems, on the face of it, to leave little room for the continued commemoration of wrongdoing. This rests on a misunderstanding of forgiveness, however, and we can explain why there need be no incompatibility between them. To do this, I emphasize the role of what I call nonangry negative moral emotions in constituting memories of wrongdoing. Memories so constituted can persist after forgiveness and have important (...) moral functions, and commemorations can elicit these emotions to preserve memories of this sort. Moreover, commemorations can be a restorative justice practice that promotes reconciliation, but only on condition that the memories they preserve are constituted by nonangry negative, not retributive, emotions. (shrink)
Government refusals to apologise for past wrongful practices such as slavery or the removal of indigenous children from their parents seem evidently unjust. It is surprising, then, that some ethical considerations appear to support such stances. Jacques Derrida's account of forgiveness as entirely independent of apology appears to preclude the need for official apologies. I contend that governments are obligated to apologize for past injustices because they are responsible for them and that official apologies should not involve a corresponding (...) expectation for forgiveness. My argument is that an apology and forgiveness are asymmetrical because an apology is based on respect, a perfect duty, and can be a public act, whereas forgiveness is based on love, is an imperfect duty, and is a personal undertaking. It follows from this asymmetry that an apology is a prerequisite for reconciliation, but forgiveness is discretionary. Refusals to apologize tend to impede the reconciliation process and make the possibility of forgiveness remote. The concept of reconciliation has also been criticized on the grounds that reconciliation implies a former harmony that should be restored and fault on both sides. However, I argue it should be understood as a willingness to work together without a presumption of having overcome the past. (shrink)
This paper considers whether we have any reason to forgive the perpetrators of the most terrible atrocities, such as the Holocaust. On the face of it, we do not have reason to forgive in such cases. But on examination, the principal arguments against forgiveness do not turn out to be persuasive. Two considerations in favour of forgiveness are canvassed: the presence of rational agency in the perpetrators, and the common human nature which they share with us. It is (...) argued that the presence of rational agency does not generate a reason to forgive. However, our common human nature may be sufficient to provide such a reason, and evidence for its general reason-giving power can be seen in phenomena such as vicarious shame, and the moral significance which we attach to the notion of crimes against humanity. A reason for forgiveness based on common human nature will not be a strong one, but a weak reason still has some force. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between our interpretations of another's actions and our readiness to forgive. It begins by articulating an account of forgiveness drawn from the New Testament. It then employs the work of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, and Gadamer to investigate ways in which our interpretations of an act or agent can promote or prevent such forgiveness. It concludes with a discussion of some ethical restrictions that may pertain to the interpretation of actions or agents as opposed to (...) utterances and a look at the significance of these restrictions for forgiveness-promoting interpretation. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that only the victim of a wrong can forgive that wrong. Several philosophers have recently defended “third-party forgiveness,” the scenario in which A, who is not the victim of a wrong in any sense, forgives B for a wrong B did to C. Focusing on Glen Pettigrove's argument for third-party forgiveness, I will defend the victim's unique standing to forgive, by appealing to the fact that in forgiving, victims must absorb severe and inescapable costs (...) of distinctive kinds, a plight that third parties do not share. There are, nonetheless, significant, even essential, roles played by third parties in making forgiveness possible, reasonable, or valuable for victims of serious wrongs. I take a closer look at the links between victims, wrongdoers, resentment, and forgiveness in showing why the victim alone can forgive. (shrink)
In this essay I offer a detailed reply to three critics (whose commentaries are included in this issue of Philosophia) of my Forgiveness: a Philosophical Exploration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). The topics explored include the nature and limits of forgiveness; its unconditional or conditional character; the problem of distinguishing between central and marginal cases; the analysis of political apology; and questions of philosophical methodology.