The Philosophy of Forgiveness - Volume II

New Dimensions of Forgiveness

Court D. Lewis (Ed.)

by Court D. Lewis (Pellissippi State Community College), Elisabetta Bertolino , Mariano Crespo , Kathleen Poorman Dougherty (Alma College, USA), A.G. Holdier , Leonard Kahn (Loyola University New Orleans), Frederik Kaufman , Jeff Lambert , John McClellan (Carson-Newman University, USA), Ryan Michael Murphy , Zachary Thomas Settle , Adrian Switzer , Joshua M. Hall (Oxford College of Emory University)

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Volume II of Vernon Press’s series on the Philosophy of Forgiveness offers several challenging and provocative chapters that seek to push the conversation in new directions and dimensions. Volume I, Explorations of Forgiveness: Personal, Relational, and Religious, began the task of creating a consistent multi-dimensional account of forgiveness, and Volume II’s New Dimensions of Forgiveness continues this goal by presenting a set of chapters that delve into several deep conceptual and metaphysical features of forgiveness. New Dimensions of Forgiveness creates a theoretical framework for understanding the many nuanced features of forgiveness, namely, third-party forgiveness, forgiveness as an aesthetic process, the role of resentment in warranting forgiveness, the moral status of self-forgiveness, epistemic trust, forgiveness’s influence on the moral status of persons, forgiveness in time, the status of Substance and Subject within a Hegelian framework, Jacques Derrida’s “impossible” forgiveness, and the use of imaginative “magic” to become a maximal forgiver. Readers will be challenged to question and come to terms with many oft-overlooked, yet important philosophical dimensions of forgiveness.

1. Third-Party Forgiveness
Leonard Kahn
Loyola University New Orleans
It is common to feel sympathy for the victims of wrongdoing, but more importantly for the purposes of this chapter, it is also common to feel a series of closely related emotions toward wrongdoers: blame, disgust, indignation, resentment, and even hatred. Yet, suppose that after hearing of a particularly vicious wrongdoing (e.g. terrorist attacks killing many), I reflect for a few moments and then forgive the terrorists. Such an act is an example of third-party forgiveness. The purpose of this chapter is to make progress with the question of whether third-party forgiveness is possible. Many thoughtful people suggest that it is impossible, and a number of philosophers agree. With appropriate qualifications, I will argue that these skeptics of third-party forgiveness are correct.

2. The Heart of the Matter: Forgiveness as an Aesthetic Process
A.G. Holdier
Colorado Technical University, and
Minidoka Christian Education Association
Much of the Philosophy of Forgiveness has focused on either epistemic questions (surrounding the possibility, effectiveness, and process of forgiving another, as well as its connection to forgetfulness) or on moral concerns (such as its status as a virtue and its supposed obligatoriness). In this chapter, I argue that the aesthetic components of the experience of forgiveness—that is to say, the phenomenological process that negotiates cognitive judgments and understanding with emotional affective states—has been largely resigned to the periphery of the philosophical conversation, despite its locus at the core of any real-world impulse for forgiveness. Following in Joram Haber’s “common-sense” footsteps, I aim in this chapter to build a philosophical structure around the everyday experience of forgiveness as a peace-seeking enterprise.

3. Forgiveness and Warranted Resentment
Kaufman, Frederik
Ithaca College
On many accounts of forgiveness, when the offender apologizes to the victim, repents and makes whatever amends are possible, the victim is supposed to relinquish her resentment because it is no longer warranted. This is how Charles Griswold, Jeffrie Murphy, Pamela Hieronymi, Margaret Holmgren, and others understand forgiveness, namely, as the relinquishing of unwarranted resentment. I argue that this is a minimal understanding of forgiveness because: if an apology makes one’s warranted resentment unwarranted, then upon apology, one must (is morally obligated to) abandon resentment. Such an implication destroys the elective nature of forgiveness. At its most praiseworthy, forgiveness is elective and involves relinquishing warranted resentment, not unwarranted resentment.

4. Responsibility and Self-Forgiveness in The Story of Lucy Gault
Dougherty, Kathleen Poorman
Mounty Mary University
Much of the moral struggle in William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault arises from Lucy’s inability to forgive herself for the suffering her actions cause, and thus to overcome the sense that she is not entitled to happiness. The novel intersects with the philosophical literature on self-forgiveness in numerous interesting ways, raising notable challenges to standard interpretations of self-forgiveness. First, the novel prompts us to reconsider the kinds of actions thought to make self-forgiveness morally challenging, showing that self-forgiveness can be difficult even in morally neutral cases. Second, it encourages us to reflect upon the dependence of self-forgiveness on interpersonal forgiveness, demonstrating that self-forgiveness must sometimes function independently of other-forgiveness. Finally, it challenges our understanding of the relationship between responsibility and forgiveness, revealing that taking responsibility for our actions and our identities, even when inescapable, can also be tragic and inconsistent with human flourishing.

5. The Asymmetry of Forgiveness
Mariano Crespo
ICS/ University of Navarra
There are two central elements of forgiveness. On the one side, in an act of genuine forgiveness the forgiver gives up a certain claim towards the wrongdoer, which “settles the debt.” On the other side, there is a new positive attitude of good will towards the wrongdoer. In my analysis I show: a) these two elements are relationally “asymmetrical”; and b) their analysis has important consequences for both the metaphysics of the person and for a general theory of action. More specifically, the positive attitude towards the wrongdoer not only justifies settling the debt, but it also touches on a deeper part of the forgiver’s and wrongdoer’s moral life. My chapter examines and draws several conclusions about how the moral life of individuals is enhanced through forgiveness.

6. Forgiveness and Time: Attitudes, Dispositions, and Philosophical Charity
Ryan Michael Murphy
Fort Lewis College
The possibility of future-oriented forgivingness, or attitudinal dispositions that make it more likely for agents to forgive in cases of wrongdoing that might occur in the future, is the focus of this paper. First, I aim to clarify this concept by describing how it is categorically congruent with the paradigmatic case of past wrongdoing and forgiveness that occurs in the present. Secondly, I offer a conceptual account of how the two are causally interconnected. While the paradigm case of forgiveness typically relates to moral wrongdoings, I suggest that attitudinal forgivingness is applicable to cases in which there might not be any clear moral wrongdoing. Specifically, I seek to develop an understanding of forgiveness as attitudinally-centered such that it also informs philosophical methodology. I conclude by arguing that attitudinal forgivingness motivates and fortifies the Principle of Charity in philosophy.

7. Trusting Again
John McClellan
Carson-Newman University
“Once a cheater, always a cheater:” a sweeping generalization of the romantically unfaithful that cannot of course, be strictly true. Still, the fact that a person commits a serious betrayal does not exactly bode well for his or her future trustworthiness. But what about those whose love and desire for continued intimacy with their betrayers compels them to trust again? Is renewed trust in their loved ones epistemically unjustified? I hope to show that there is a plausible way to view “trusting again” as epistemically justifiable, even when one’s trust is not proportioned to the evidence of the betrayer’s future trustworthiness. Even if I am unsuccessful, however, my analysis will elucidate what some will consider there to be an irreconcilable tension between epistemic norms and a very admirable form of forgiveness.

8. Absolute Forgiveness, Material Intimacy and Recognition in Hegel
Jeff Lambert
Duquesne University
Forgiveness is a crucial moment in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. However, what has often been overlooked in the moment of recognition that occurs during forgiveness is that it pertains mostly, if not solely, to the Subject. As a result, the initial moment of forgiveness is deficient because it lacks recognition of the intimacy between Substance and Subject. I will argue that thinkers such as Catherine Malabou and John Russon are mistaken to claim that the recognition found in the first moment of forgiveness is one that pertains equally to Subject and Substance. If Subject and Substance were fully involved in this first moment, then there would be no need for the journey of Spirit to continue—as this kind of recognition is the main goal of Spirit. Thus, it will be shown that the moment of Substantial recognition does not occur until later in the Phenomenology of Spirit, and is not fully recognized in unison with Subject until the final section, “Absolute Knowing.”

9. Im/possible Forgiveness: Derrida on Cosmopolitan Hospitality
Switzer, Adrian
University of Missouri Kansas City
My chapter focuses on Jacques Derrida’s On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. I illustrate that forgiveness properly so-called is a political act of unconditional hospitality in a global, cosmopolitan context. I focuses on the current Syrian refuge crisis, to show that the im/possibility of forgiveness depends upon thinking unconditionality of global refuges apart from the particularity of state sovereignty. In conclusion, I show that the modally necessary character of forgiveness for Derrida is best understood in political terms, namely, as the unconditional demand for harbor of the global refugee against a limited hospitality extended by particular sovereign states

10. Indeterminable Forgiveness: Economic Madness and The Possibility of an Impossible Task
Zachary Thomas Settle
Vanderbilt University
This chapter aims to characterize a Derridean articulation of forgiveness while simultaneously making sense of forgiveness within Derrida’s larger philosophical project. I ultimately argue that forgiveness, for Derrida, is the possibility of the impossible. After distinguishing between the underlying logics of conditional and unconditional forgiveness, Derrida articulates the way in which forgiveness requires an absolute encounter between the Self and the Other, which is riddled with linguistic impossibilities. Without any possible resolution or end other than the Other herself, forgiveness remains a distinct impossibility to which we are essentially responsible. By struggling against such an impossibility, Derrida argues that forgiveness—marked by hospitality and justice—opens itself up to an unforeseen possibility, but it is a possibility that remains to come, as forgiveness is a process perpetually underway and never completed.

11. Forgiveness, One’s Voice and the Law
Elisabetta Bertolino
Drawing on Adriana Cavarero’s writings, forgiveness may spring from one’s voice. When individuals speak in one’s voice, uniqueness and vulnerability are necessarily revealed to one another. Contrary to the voice of individuals, the voice of institutionalized law uses a logic of exchange based on conditionality, which creates a resentful subject (the institution) who requires punishment of the other to establish balance. The focus on one’s individual voice resists such a legal approach to forgiveness. One’s voice begins from one’s uniqueness—corporeal vulnerability and relationality—allowing space for an inner-forgiveness beyond conditions and the general voice of legal institutions.

12. Twixt Mages and Monsters: Arendt on the Dark Art of Forgiveness
Joshua M. Hall
Emory University, Oxford College
In this chapter, I offer a strategic new interpretation of Hannah Arendt’s conception of forgiveness. In brief, I propose understanding Arendt as suggesting—not that evil is objectively banal, or a mere failure of imagination—but instead that it is maximally forgiveness-facilitating for us to understand that which is seemingly unforgivable as merely a failure of imagination. In other words, we must so expand our imaginative powers (what Arendt terms “enlarged mentality”) by creatively imagining others as merely insufficiently unimaginative, all in order to reimagine them as beings whom we are willing and able to forgive. It is my contention that for Arendt, the best way to live is to strive to realize (through the use of mental imagery) the image of the maximal forgiver in oneself, and to interpret every offense requiring forgiveness as resulting from a superficiality (a lack of depth) of thought and imagination.

Court Lewis received his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, where he specialized in Ethics, Justice, and Forgiveness. He became interested in forgiveness studies while studying mass atrocities and social oppression in 20th Century Europe, especially after reading Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower. His philosophical work on Justice and Rights introduced him to Nicholas Wolterstorff’s ethical concept eirenéism—a peace-based theory of rights. Combining eirenéism with the concept of forgiveness, Court developed a rights-based ethic of forgiveness. His research was featured in his dissertation, was the basis for a Capstone Philosophy course at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which featured visiting speakers working on forgiveness, such as Martha Nussbaum, and portions of it have appeared in scholarly peer-reviewed journals such as Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel. He is currently completing a monograph on his research. Court is Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Owensboro Community and Technical College.


MARIANO CRESPO obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the Complutense University in Madrid (Spain). He has been Professor at the San Damaso University and at he Francisco de Vitoria University, both in Madrid. From 1995 to 2004 he was Assistant and then Associated Professor at the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein. From 2005 till 2013 he was Associated Professor at the Philosophy Department of Catholic University from Chile. Since 2013 he is Research Fellow of the Group “Emotional Culture and Identity” of the Institute Culture and Societ (ICS) of the University of Navarra. He has also been Visiting Scholar at the Husserl Archives of the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and at the Phenomenology Research Center of the Southern Illinois University (USA). He is the author of the books Das Verzeihen. Eine philosophische Untersuchung (2002), El valor ético de la afectividad. Estudios de ética fenomenológica (2012) and with U. Ferrer, Die Person im Kontext von Moral und Sozialität. Studien zur frühen phänomenologischen Ethik (2016). He has also edited the fourth edition of Alexander Pfänder’s Logik and the volume Menschenwürde. Metaphysik und Ethik. He has published several papers on ontological, epistemological and ethical topics, most of them from a phenomenological standpoint.

Elisabetta Bertolino holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Law/Legal Theory from Birkbeck College—University of London. She has also completed other studies in Human Rights, English Common Law, and Philosophy and Literature. Her research focuses on one’s voice and its potentiality for resistance against constituted and sovereign forms of power. She has published in particular an interview with Adriana Cavarero (differences 2008) and is currently working on a book on one’s voice in relation to law and politics. Elisabetta currently teaches Private International Law at the University of Palermo (Italy).

Kathleen Poorman Dougherty has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Oklahoma. She has held numerous faculty positions, and currently serves as Dean of the School of Humanities, Social Sciences & Education at Mount Mary University. Her scholarly work focuses on the development of moral character, the role of self-knowledge in good character, and the role of personal relationships both for increasing self-knowledge and for fostering the development of good character. In addressing these issues she frequently considers literary texts hand in hand with traditional philosophical texts, because literature allows us the privilege of seeing not only the external life but also the internal life of a character.

Joshua M. Hall is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Emory University, Oxford College. His research focuses various historical and geographical lenses on philosophy's boundaries, particularly the intersection of aesthetics, psychology and social justice. This includes a critically-acclaimed coedited anthology (Philosophy Imprisoned), over two dozen peer-reviewed journal articles (including in Philosophy and Literature and Journal of Aesthetic Education), and eight anthology chapters (including Philosophical Perspectives on the Devil). His related work in the arts includes one chapbook collection and sixty-five individual poems in literary journals internationally (including multiple Pushcart Prize-winners Ibbetson St. Magazine, Main Street Rag, and Shampoo), as well as over twenty years’ experience as a dancer and choreographer.

A.G. Holdier is teacher and Program Director for Southern Idaho’s Minidoka Christian Education Association, as well as an ethics instructor for Colorado Technical University. His work on the intersection of aesthetics, ethics, and religion has been published in The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, and volumes from publishers such as Lexington Press and Palgrave Macmillan. The development of his phronesis is still undergoing considerable emplotment.

Leonard Kahn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Loyola University New Orleans. He is the editor of Mill on Justice (Palgrave 2012) and of John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" (Broadview 2015). He is also the co-editor of Consequentialism and Environmental Ethics (Routledge 2013). He has published articles in Philosophical Studies, The Journal of Moral Philosophy, Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, and Ethics, Policy, & Environment, as well as chapters in books published by Brill, Oxford University Press, Palgrave, and Routledge.

Frederik Kaufman is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ithaca College. He works primarily in moral philosophy and has published on war, death, animals, and environmental philosophy.

Jeff Lambert is a Ph.D. candidate at Duquesne University. His philosophical interests are primarily centered on Modern Philosophy (particularly late Leibniz) but he is also interested in Contemporary Continental Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, and Critical Race Theory. His research is particularly focused on exploring and developing questions regarding the Philosophy of Intimacy. His dissertation investigates a form of intimacy within Leibniz’s system of monads, by examining Leibniz’s concept of the “vinculum substantiale.”

John McClellan is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, TN. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2013 and a B.A. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2004. His primary scholarly interests are in Philosophy of Religion.

Ryan Michael Murphy teaches philosophy at Southwest Colorado Community College and works in the Registrar’s Office at Fort Lewis College, both in Durango, Colorado. He completed his M.A. in Philosophy at San Francisco State University. His primary philosophical interests include ethics; social and political philosophy; Buddhist philosophy; and questions concerning agency, action, and responsibility. His past works address desire-satisfaction and wellbeing, Plato’s Phaedrus and the rhetoric of writing, and the distribution of higher education as a social good. In his free time, Ryan enjoys running, cooking with family and friends, and gardening.

Zachary Thomas Settle is currently a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt, where he works in the areas of theology and political economy. He is the theology editor of The Other Journal, and has written for numerous publications, including the Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory and The Other Journal. He is also the co-editor, alongside Dr. Taylor Worley, of a volume on theology, phenomenology, and film, entitled Dreams, Doubt, and Dread: The Spiritual in Film (Cascade, 2016).

Adrian Switzer, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) where he specializes in Kant and post-Kantian Continental Philosophy. Co-translator of books on Parmenides and Kant, and author of numerous journal articles and book chapters on such figures as Kant, Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze, Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Luc Nancy and Luce Irigaray, Dr. Switzer is currently completing a manuscript on the aesthetics and politics of the student protests in Paris in May 1968.

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Philosophy of Forgiveness - Volume II

Book Subtitle

New Dimensions of Forgiveness





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Publication date

October 2020