Forgiveness and Revenge is a powerful exploration of our attitudes to serious wrongdoings and a careful examination of the values that underlie our thinking about revenge and forgiveness. From adulterous spouses to terrorist factions, we are surrounded by wrongdoing, yet we rarely agree which response is appropriate. The problem of how to respond realistically and sensitively to the wrongs of the past remains a perplexing one. Trudy Govier clarifies our thinking on this subject by examining the moral and practical impact (...) of revenge and forgiveness, both personal and political. Forgiveness and Revenge offers much-needed clarity and reason where emotions often prevail. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the ethics of attitudes to wrongdoing. (shrink)
Self-trust is a necessary condition of personal autonomy and self-respect. Self-trust involves a positive sense of the motivations and competence of the trusted person; a willingness to depend on him or her; and an acceptance of vulnerability. It does not preclude trust in others. A person may be rightly said to have too much self-trust; however core self-trust is essential for functioning as an autonomous human being.
Did the world change on September 11, 2001? For those who live outside of New York or Washington, life's familiar pace persists and families and jobs resume their routines. Yet everything seems different because of the dramatic disturbance in our sense of what our world means and how we exist within it. In A Delicate Balance , philosopher Trudy Govier writes that it is because our feelings and attitudes have altered so fundamentally that our world has changed. Govier believes that (...) there are ethical challenges we cannot ignore. From Plato and Aristotle on courage to Kant on revenge, to 20th Century philosopher John Rawls’s views on justice, Govier mines the world of philosophy to reflect on terrorism. Govier argues that moral complexities such as victimhood, evil, power and revenge, if properly understood, can provide a basis for hope– not despair. Govier walks the reader through this shift, challenging us to construct a new sense of the world and our place within it. (shrink)
I explore Baier, Held, Okin, Code, Noddings, and Eisler on trust and distrust. This reveals a need for reflection on the analysis, ethics, and dynamics of trust and distrust-especially the distinction between trusting and taking for granted, the feasibility of choosing greater trust, and the possibility of moving from situations of warranted distrust to trust. It is impossible to overcome the need for trust through surveillance, recourse to contracts, or legal institutions.
This article explores and offers a qualified defence of the claim that the entitlement to forgive a wrongdoer belongs to the victim of the wrong. A summary account of forgiveness is given, followed by arguments in favor of the victim's prerogative to forgive. Primary, or direct victims are then distinguished from secondary and tertiary ones, which point to a plurality of prerogatives to forgive. In cases of conflicts between these prerogatives it is emphasized that special care should be taken to (...) protect the primary victim's entitlement, without giving an absolute and exclusive status to the latter prerogative. Grounds for limiting the primary victim's prerogative regarding forgiveness include (a) cases where harm to secondary and/or tertiary victims are greater than the harm resulting from the original wrong committed against the primary victim, (b) the social dimensions of the elements of forgiveness, and (c) the need for self-forgiveness when a repentant wrongdoer is not forgiven by any of the victims. The practical significance of these arguments are illustrated by considering the criticism that the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission have forgiven perpetrators in ways that inappropriately pre-empted the primary victims' entitlement to forgive. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.21(2) 2002: 97-111. (shrink)
The authors propose a conception of national reconciliation based on the building or rebuilding of trust between parties alienated by conflict. It is by no means obvious what reconciliation between large groups of people amounts to in practice or how it should be understood in theory. Lack of conceptual clarity can be illustrated with particular reference to postapartheid South Africa, where reconciliation between whites and blacks was a major goal of the Mandela government and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The (...) authors argue that a conception of reconciliation in terms of trust offers a promising solution to prominent conceptual confusions surrounding the notion of “national reconciliation” or reconciliation between large groups. By emphasizing the centrality of contextually variable trust in viable relationships, the authors accommodate an emphasis on human relationships and attitudes, as stressed by Desmond Tutu. They argue, however, against any simplistic application of purely individualistic or spiritual concepts to large groups and institutional contexts. (shrink)
The contested testimony in the Hill-Thomas ease is an illuminating test case for universalistic theories about the reliability of testimony. There is no reasonable alternative to universalistic standards of epistemic appraisal. And yet the charge by feminists and others that such criteria can be applied selectively and used to discredit and silence people is shown to be accurate. The road to a solution is to offer guidelines for the interpretation and application of these norms.
How do Humans Think? How should we think? Almost all of philosophy and a great deal else depends in large part on the answers that we provide to such questions. Yet they are almost impossible to deal with in isolation; notions about nature of thought are almost bound to connect with metaphysical notions about where ideas come from, with notions about appropriate arenas for certainty, doubt, and belief, and hence with moral and religious ideas. The Western tradition of thinking about (...) thinking takes shape with Socrates; among the other important strands covered in this book are Descartes’ recipe for discovering truth through systematic doubt, Hume’s notion that all our ideas are copies of sense impressions, Wollstonecraft’s introduction of the perspective of gender into such questions, and Wittgenstein’s claim that much of the traditional terrain of Western philosophy should be thought of as the proper domain only of linguistic assertion, possessing no content beyond the words. With each philosopher and school of thought dealt with, Govier shows how ideas about thinking connect to the other elements of the particular philosophy, and brings to life the social and intellectual context that the ideas spring from. Socrates’ Children is thus not only an investigation of notions of thinking and knowing in Western culture; it is a selective general history of much of Western philosophy, from a unique and fascinating perspective. (shrink)
In the context of redressing wrongs of the past, the importance of acknowledgement is often urged. It figures significantly, for instance, in the final report of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in the 1996 Canadian Royal Commiss ion Report on Aboriginal Peoples. In both documents a central theme is that acknowledging wrongs of the past is a key first step towards healing and reconciliation. Several recent statements about public apology also urge that moral apologies are signif icant because (...) of the ways in which they acknowledge wrongdoing and responsibility. However, there seem to be few explanations of what, exactly, acknowledgement amounts to and why one would expect it to be an important stage in the healing of victims or in the reconciliation between victim and perpetrator groups. I suggest that ackno wledgement is a kind of spelling out, or articulation, of something that we already know or are in a position to know. When we acknowledge something we avow or accept it as something attached to ourselves. I distinguish between granted acknowledgement, received acknowledgement, and self-acknowledgement. Often acknowledgement is partial and compromised, a situation which may be confusing and harmful to those who have been wronged. I propose explanations as to why the acknowledgement that they are worth y human beings who were wronged and deserved better tends to be profoundly important to groups such as Blacks in South Africa and native peoples in Canada. I also address difficulties which we face when we are pressed to acknowledge injustice and wrongdo ing which we would rather not accept as part of our social history. (shrink)
The authority of first person claims may be understood from an epistemic perspective or as a matter of social practice. Building on accounts of Hume, Nagel, and several more recent authors, it is argued that this authority should be understood as limited. To extend it beyond notions of what it is like to experience something, we shift from what should be a narrow subjective edge to a territory of objective claims, thereby reasoning incorrectly. A relevant application is the supposed authority (...) of victims. (shrink)
We explore the relationship between argument and narrative with reference to parables. Parables are typically thought to convey a message. In examining a parable, we can ask what that message is, whether the story told provides reasons for the message, and whether those reasons are good reasons. In exploring these questions, we employ as an inves-tigative technique the strategy of reconstructing parables as argu-ments. We then proceed to con-sider the cogency of those argu-ments. One can offer arguments through narratives and, (...) in particu-lar, through parables, but that do-ing so likely brings more risks than benefits, from an epistemic point of view. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between narrative and argument in the context of ‘telling our stories’, a common aspect of processes of political reconciliation. Truth commissions and informal workshops often emphasize the telling of stories as a means of providing a sense of the experiences of persons affected by political conflict. Such stories, or narratives, may provide a powerful tool in reconciliation processes, given that they provide a basis for acknowledgement, understanding and empathy. However the power of narrative in such (...) contexts does not eliminate the need for the exploration and evaluation of arguments for contested claims, and there is likely to be a tension between empathetic and critical elements in this regard. (shrink)