The Power to Forgive

32 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2020

See all articles by James Edwards

James Edwards

Oxford Law Faculty; Worcester College, Oxford; Brasenose College, Oxford

Adam Perry

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 29, 2019

Abstract

What is it to forgive? The dominant view is that A forgives B if and only if A undergoes the right kind of emotional change. This view should be rejected: it counts too few acts as forgiveness, too many people as potential forgivers, and fails to explain the normative differences that forgiveness can make. Instead, we should endorse a pluralist view, according to which A forgives B if and only if A either (1) undergoes the right kind of emotional change or (2) makes the right kind of declaration. A declaration of the right kind is an exercise of a normative power, which reverses certain normative changes brought about by that for which B is forgiven. A has this power because it gives her a means of conserving the status quo ante of her personal relations with B. Undergoing the right kind of emotional change serves a similar conservative function, which unifies the two species of forgiveness. Endorsing this pluralist view helps to explain why only some people can forgive, why some acts may be unforgivable, and why both questions have been so vexed.

Keywords: forgiveness, normative power, apology, autonomy

Suggested Citation

Edwards, James and Perry, Adam, The Power to Forgive (December 29, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3511010 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3511010

James Edwards

Oxford Law Faculty ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Rd
Oxford, OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

Worcester College, Oxford ( email )

Walton Street
Oxford, OX1 2HB
United Kingdom

Brasenose College, Oxford ( email )

Adam Perry (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

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