Stoic Forgiveness

In Glen Pettigrove & Robert Enright (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy and Pyschology of Forgiveness. Routledge. pp. 87-100 (2023)
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Abstract

What can Stoicism offer to contemporary debates about forgiveness? Given their outright rejection of a reactive attitudes framework for responding to wrongdoing and their bold suggestions of how to revise our moral practices, the Stoics provide a valuable lens through which to re-evaluate various central claims in the debates about forgiveness. In this chapter, I highlight four common assumptions that the Stoics would consider problematic: firstly, that forgiveness is opposed to justice; secondly, that anger and resentment are necessary for registering wrongdoing; thirdly, that anger and resentment are generally reliable at tracking the severity of wrongdoing; fourthly, that reconciliation with wrongdoers is an option rather than an imperative of virtue. Insofar as the Stoics provide defensible and often compelling alternatives to these positions, Stoicism offers a number of philosophical resources to re-conceptualize the way we think about forgiveness and suggests ways in which forgiveness might be better integrated into a virtue ethical framework.

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Jeremy Reid
San Francisco State University

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