Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (3):365-393 (2009)

Leo Zaibert
Union College
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
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DOI 10.1163/174552409X433436
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References found in this work BETA

Forgiveness and Resentment.Jeffrie Murphy - 1982 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 7 (1):503-516.
In Defence of Unconditional Forgiveness.Eve Garrard & David McNaughton - 2003 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):39–60.
Forgiveness.Aurel Kolnai - 1974 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 74:91 - 106.
Equity and Mercy.Martha C. Nussbaum - 1993 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (2):83-125.
On Mercy.Claudia Card - 1972 - Philosophical Review 81 (2):182-207.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Economic Model of Forgiveness.Brandon Warmke - 2016 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (4):570-589.
The Normative Significance of Forgiveness.Brandon Warmke - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (4):687-703.
Reasons to Forgive.Per-Erik Milam - 2019 - Analysis 79 (2):242-251.
Against Elective Forgiveness.Per-Erik Milam - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):569-584.
Articulate Forgiveness and Normative Constraints.Brandon Warmke - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (4):1-25.

View all 26 citations / Add more citations

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