The Prudential Value of Forgiveness

Philosophia 41 (4):1069-1078 (2013)
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Abstract

Most philosophers who discuss the value of forgiveness concentrate on its moral value. This paper focuses on the prudential value of forgiveness, which has been surprisingly neglected by moral philosophers. I suggest that this may be because part of the concept of forgiveness involves the forgiver being motivated by moral rather than prudential considerations. But this does not justify neglecting the prudential value of forgiveness, which is important even though forgivers should not be prudentially motivated. Forgiveness helps satisfy interests arising from the need for co-operation in such areas as epistemic life, where humans are interdependent. Forgiveness can restore epistemic relationships, and this has the prudential value of helping agents navigate their way through their environment. While the prudential value of forgiveness may be supplementary to its moral value, it would be a mistake to ignore this area of the debate. Exploring the prudential value of forgiveness enriches our understanding of the role that this practice plays in human life, and may contribute to explaining the origin of forgiveness

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Stephen Ingram
University of Manchester

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