In Defense of Third-Party Forgiveness

In Kathryn J. Norlock (ed.), The Moral Psychology of Forgiveness. pp. 135-160 (2017)
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In this paper, I take issue with the widespread philosophical consensus that only victims of wrongdoing are in a position to forgive it. I offer both a defense and a philosophical account of third-party forgiveness. I argue that when we deny this possibility, we misconstrue the complex, relational nature of wrongdoing and its harms. We also risk over-moralizing the victim's position and overlooking the roles played by secondary participants. I develop an account of third-party forgiveness that both demonstrates how successful, morally legitimate, acts of third-party forgiveness are possible and simultaneously highlights the particular moral risks that would-be third-party forgivers face. I conclude insofar as they are appropriately grounded and cautiously bestowed, at least some acts of third-party forgiveness contribute significantly to post-conflict repair.

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Alice MacLachlan
York University


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