Forgiving While Resenting: Justifying Elective Forgiveness

Ethical Perspectives 25 (2):257-284 (2018)
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Philosophers have proposed accounts of forgiveness in which the victim is warranted in forgiving only if the wrongdoer makes amends for the wrong done. According to such an account, forgiveness is made rational by the wrongdoer apologizing. But this account creates a puzzle because it seems to render cases of undeserved elective forgiveness (where there is no apology or repentance) unjustified. My aim in the present contribution is to argue that electively forgiving unrepentant wrongdoers can be justified if we accept as genuine a minimalist form of forgiveness, according to which a victim can forgive and still resent. Further, I suggest that undeserved elective forgiveness can be admirable if we extend our conception of reasons to include non- desert-type reasons, such as reasons of altruism, generosity or reasons of social context.
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