Why Aristotle’s Virtuous Agent Won’t Forgive: Aristotle on Sungnōmē, Praotēs, and _Megalopsychia_

In Paula Satne & Krisanna M. Scheiter (eds.), Confict and Resolution: The Ethics of Forgiveness, Revenge, and Punishment. Cham: Springer. pp. 189-205 (2022)
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For Aristotle, some wrongdoers do not deserve blame, and the virtuous judge should extend sungnōmē, a correct judgment about what is equitable, under the appropriate excusing circumstances. Aristotle’s virtuous judge, however, does not forgive; the wrongdoer is excused from blame in the first place, rather than being forgiven precisely because she is blameworthy. Additionally, the judge does not fail to blame because she wishes to be merciful or from natural feeling, but instead, because that is the equitable action to take under the circumstances. Moreover, while Aristotle does claim in his discussions of the virtues of megalopsychia and praotēs that the virtuous person will sometimes fail to become angry at blameworthy wrongdoers, Aristotle’s reasons for repudiating anger or forestalling blame have little to do with the sorts of reasons that one would or could be forgiving for. Although an Aristotelian virtuous agent does let go of anger for her own reasons, she does not forgive. As a result, I argue that since Aristotle’s account of equity entails that forgiveness is positively vicious, forgivingness is not merely a virtue left out of Aristotle’s account, but is in fact incompatible with his account.
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