Stefan Riedener


According to the standard account of forgiveness, you forgive your wrongdoer by overcoming your resentment towards them. But how exactly must you do so? And when is such overcoming fitting? The aim of this paper is to introduce a novel version of the standard account to answer these questions. Its core idea is that the reactive attitudes are a fitting response not just to someone’s blameworthiness, but to their blameworthiness being significant for you, or worthy of your caring, in virtue of your relationship to it. Someone’s blameworthiness is significant for you to the extent you’re bound up with what grounds it––e.g. with the wrongdoer’s being a participant in human relationships, with their attitudes, or with the victim’s being a source of demands. So you may fittingly not care about someone’s blameworthiness if it’s sufficiently insignificant for you in this manner––e.g. if their wrong happened far off in place and time. And forgiveness revolves around this. You (fittingly) forgive your wrongdoer if and only if, partly out of goodwill towards them, you (fittingly) cease to care about their blameworthiness––a bit as if their wrong had happened far off. If I’m right, this agent-relativity-based account can resolve the apparent ‘paradoxy of forgiveness’ (Kolnai 1973), satisfies a number of desiderata, and is plausible on an intuitive level.



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