Forget Forgiveness: On the Benefits of Sympathy for Political Reconciliation
Theoria, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 31-63, December 2004
24 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2005
The work of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has generated a great deal of interest in the role of forgiveness in politics. More specifically, it has raised the question of whether forgiveness should be a constitutive part of reconciliation processes between groups. In this paper, I argue that it should not, and that it might be both more useful and more realistic to consider something like Adam Smith's notion of 'sympathy' instead. Part 1 examines the arguments for and against policies promoting political forgiveness. Part 2 suggests sympathy as an alternative. Part 3 considers and rejects some objections to the employment of sympathy in this context.
Keywords: Forgiveness, sympathy, reconciliation, South Africa, Truth and Reconciliation Commission
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