Forgiveness
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

What is it

Justice is a virtue and so, many claim, is forgiveness. But they seem inconsistent. Is forgiveness really a virtue? Philosopher Charles Griswold discusses the South African reconciliation process, truly evil people, and the virtue of forgiveness.

Listening Notes

What is forgiving? John thinks that it isn't the same as excusing someone. It is not condoning an action either. Ken says that it is only right to forgive someone if you hold them responsible and you are releasing them from something. Who is forgiveness good for? Lots of people think it is primarily beneficial for the forgiver. Ken introduces the guest, Charles Griswold, professor at Boston University.

John asks who is forgiveness for and what does it require. Griswold says that forgiveness has certain conditions. Griswold describes important parts of the process of forgiveness. Griswold's view requires the forgiven to repent. John says that there are other conceptions of forgiveness, and one is a view that forgiveness only involves the person doing the forgiving. Is it forgiveness when one party does not think anything wrong was done? Ken points out that forgiveness can't be demanded. Can forgiveness be required? What does forgiveness do for me? What does it do for interpersonal relationships? Griswold thinks it alleviates guilt for the forgiven and allows the forgiver to let go of moral hatred. Griswold emphasizes that it does not require for the parties involved to reconcile. Can you forgive yourself? Griswold thinks you can, but it is different from standard forgiveness between people. 

Ken believes there are acts he could not forgive. Are there acts that are unforgivable? Objectively unforgivable? A caller suggests that some things are unforgivable for some people. What about forgiving moral monsters, such as Hitler? Griswold argues that the “moral monster” language hinders discussion. How are trust and understanding related to forgiveness?

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:45): Amy Standen interviews Katy Hutchison, a woman who met and forgave her husband's murderer.  Hutchison's story can be found on her website, and at the Forgiveness Project, a UK organization which promotes forgiveness and conflict resolution worldwide.  Hutchison is the author of Walking After Midnight, due out from Raincoast Publishing in Fall, 2006.

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Charles L. Griswold, Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy, Boston University

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