Inarticulate Forgiveness

Metaphilosophy 50 (4):536-550 (2019)
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Influentially, Pamela Hieronymi has argued that any account of forgiveness must be both articulate and uncompromising. It must articulate the change in judgement that results in the forgiver’s loss of resentment without excusing or justifying the misdeed, and without comprising a commitment to the transgressor=s responsibility, the wrongness of the action, and the transgressed person=s self-worth. Non-articulate accounts of forgiveness, which rely on indirect strategies for reducing resentment (for example, reflecting on the transgressor’s bad childhood) are said to fail to explain forgiveness. I argue that the articulateness condition is not a necessary condition for forgiveness. I respond to numerous objections advanced against non-articulate accounts, including the claim that the resentment-mitigating practices they involve amount to excusing. Appealing to P.F. Strawson=s distinction between objective and participant attitudes, I argue that forgivers can take transgressors to be detrimentally causally shaped by their past while holding him them to be morally responsible.

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Emer O'Hagan
University of Saskatchewan


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