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Must I be forgiven?

By Luc Bovens


Why do we find it upsetting when the victim of our wrongdoing refuses to accept our apologies? Why do we find it upsetting when the victim is unwilling to grant us the forgiveness that we are asking for? Let us introduce some terminology to address these questions. The offender initiates a redemption practice by apologizing or asking forgiveness. If the victim accepts the apologies or grants forgiveness, then the practice succeeds. If the victim does not accept the apologies or refuses to forgive, then the practice fails. Offender' s distress is the distress that an offender typically experiences when a redemption practice fails. As a matter of convention, the masculine pronoun refers to the offender, the feminine to the victim. So, suppose that we have two offenders who initiate a redemption practice and they are counterparts in all respects except for the fact that for the former the practice fails, whereas for the latter the practice succeeds. I will try to provide a normative account of the fact that the former typically experiences a kind of distress that is absent for the latter. That is, I will try to provide an account of offender's distress that makes the emotion into an apt emotion. I start with three unsuccessful attempts that are implicit in the literature on forgiveness, then construct my own account, and conclude by showing how my account provides error theories for the unsuccessful accounts

Topics: B Philosophy (General)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1093/analys
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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