Ethical Perspectives

December 2010

Why Genuine Forgiveness must be Elective and Unconditional

  • Christopher Cowley

Charles Griswold’s 2007 book Forgiveness argues that genuine forgiveness of an unexcused, unjustified and unignored offence must be normgoverned and conditional. In the same way that gift-giving is governed by norms of appropriateness, so too is forgiveness; and the appropriateness of forgiving is centrally dependent on the offender’s repentance. In response, I claim that genuine forgiveness must always be elective and unconditional, and therefore genuinely unpredictable, no matter how much – or how little – the offender repents. I consider and reject one defence of unconditional forgiveness, that of Garrard and McNaughton. I then develop my own account, which builds on Bernard Williams’ notion of practical necessity.

 Page : 556 - 579

To  Ethical Perspectives 4/2010