Practicing Imperfect Forgiveness

In Lisa Tessman (ed.), Feminist Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Theorizing the Non-Ideal. Springer. pp. 185-204 (2009)
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Forgiveness is typically regarded as a good thing - even a virtue - but acts of forgiveness can vary widely in value, depending on their context and motivation. Faced with this variation, philosophers have tended to reinforce everyday concepts of forgiveness with strict sets of conditions, creating ideals or paradigms of forgiveness. These are meant to distinguish good or praiseworthy instances of forgiveness from problematic instances and, in particular, to protect the self-respect of would-be forgivers. But paradigmatic forgiveness is problematic for a number of reasons, including its inattention to forgiveness as a gendered trait. We can account for the values and the risks associated with forgiving far better if we treat it as a moral practice and not an ideal.

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Alice MacLachlan
York University


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