Forgiveness, as through a glass darkly

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ABSTRACT Forgiveness is a response to moral wrongdoing motivated by moral reasons. Long thought to be the overcoming of resentment, I will present T.M. Scanlon's view that it is best understood as the decision to blame no longer,

ABSTRACT Forgiveness is a response to moral wrongdoing motivated by moral reasons. Long thought to be the overcoming of resentment, I will present T.M. Scanlon's view that it is best understood as the decision to blame no longer, i.e. to give up the judgment that one's relationship with another is impaired. Forgiveness has been traditionally thought of as having its locus in the forgiver. However, this has led to a number of accounts in which forgiveness has been presented as a one-sided undertaking, compromising the interpersonal character of the act. I propose a different way of viewing forgiveness, namely as the combination of two actions: the decision of the victim to forgive and of the acceptance of forgiveness by the offender. In this way, forgiveness maintains its character as an interpersonal action aimed at repairing the moral bonds damaged in the wake of wrongdoing. Forgiveness is not dependent solely on a victim's willingness to forgive, but also upon an offender's willingness to be forgiven. While a victim may choose to forgive an offender before he has repented, this alone cannot bring about this act of moral repair. An offender must accept to be forgiven, which I will argue is only possible once he has recognized his wrongdoing, its harmful effects, and regrets his offense. Unconditional forgiveness is not possible, therefore, though a victim might wish it. It is always dependent upon the reciprocated actions of the forgiver and the offender in an undertaking that is dyadic from beginning to end.