piz

Forgiveness

42 posts in this topic

In this thread, free spirit raises the subject of forgiveness (and there's a reply by Jonathan Rosman), and I'd like to see some discussion on it.

My current choice on forgiveness is not to do it, at any time for any reason. As Dr. Rosman discusses, I think the proper course is to practice justice with regard to people's actions, rather than to erase the past. The last mental light went on for me when I turned the idea around: forgiveness is always asked in the context of someone having done you wrong - but would you ever "forgive" someone the good they had done you? Of course not. Then why forgive the bad?

Instead, keep a sort of running ethical "balance sheet" on the person, and treat them in precisely the way they've earned from you. If at some point there have been enough positives from someone who has wronged you to outweigh the wrong they did, the balance could change from negative to positive in your relationship with that person. Conversely, enough wrongs could change a positive regard to a negative one.

There are also certainly some wrongs that can never be made right. Turning things around again, though, I wonder if it's possible for there to be "rights" that can never be made wrong. Can someone have done you so much good that there's nothing they could do to destroy the positive regard in which you hold them? If the answer to that question is "no" (and I think it is), what does that say about the relative ethical weight of good and evil actions? Why can there be evil so bad it cannot be made up for, but no good so good it cannot be "made up for?"

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Instead, keep a sort of running ethical "balance sheet" on the person, and treat them in precisely the way they've earned from you. If at some point there have been enough positives from someone who has wronged you to outweigh the wrong they did, the balance could change from negative to positive in your relationship with that person. Conversely, enough wrongs could change a positive regard to a negative one.

[bold for my emphasis.]

Could you explain more about how this ethical balance sheet would work? For example, if Mr. A holds a door open for you when your arms are full of packages, that would go into the positive column, right? If Mr. A murders your closest friend, that would go into the negative side, right? Is the account now evenly balanced? Or would you give "weight" to each action by Mr. A in relation to you? If so, how would you go about calculating the effects?

Further, would you consider only Mr. A's actions? If so, would you consider only his actions towards you? For example, if Mr. A always treated you justly but tortured children in another neighborhood, would he still be in a positive state of "balance"?

My questions are mostly rhetorical. They point at a major problem, the idea of a balance sheet itself. I see two issues, neither of which can be resolved by a balance sheet. First, the key problem is determining the nature of Mr. A's character. Is it essentially good or essentially bad? In some cases, this can take a lot of effort and time to sort out.

Second, what is the nature of Mr. A's action in a particular case involving me? Was it just to me or not? Each act of justice deserves reward, in some form and at some time. Each act of injustice deserves reprimand, assuming the situation allows it (for example, assuming you won't lose a highly prized job in the process).

The connection between the first and the second questions is this: Mr. A's particular actions toward me are a part of the evidence I have about the essential nature of his character.

To return to your main topic, forgiveness (wiping out past injustices), I would say that forgiveness is appropriate only where the miscreant himself has wiped out the past injustice by a full apology -- one which includes restitution, that is, restoring the situation to the original good condition, if possible. If restoration isn't possible, then neither is forgiveness.

For example, if an arsonist burns up the notes I have accumulated for a project for 10 years, I would never forgive him. The reason is simple: He could never wipe out the injustice -- even if he otherwise gave a full apology (one recognizing the nature of the error, demonstrating that he has a plan to change himself, and credibly promising to make restitution).

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I would say that forgiveness is appropriate only where the miscreant himself has wiped out the past injustice by a full apology -- one which includes restitution, that is, restoring the situation to the original good condition, if possible. If restoration isn't possible, then neither is forgiveness.

I'm not sure how a past injustice can be "wiped out." If something precious of mine is stolen from my house, and eventually returned by the thief (with full apology), that act does not change the fact of the thievery and all ramifications of that act. Returning my possession does not wipe out the indignity I felt about my privacy and property being violated, nor does it erase the anguish I felt over the loss of my precious possession. Can the time spent in concern about who the thief was, how he entered my home, would he ever return, will I ever see my property again, will my insurance pay for this, the police report, the new locks, etc. ever be "wiped out?"

If the absence of my possession is reversed by its return, that simply puts the possession back into the state it originally was, but it does not wipe out the fact of the theft or the multitiplicity of consequences of that act. So, what exactly would be "wiped out" and how would it be deserving of forgiveness?

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Why can there be evil so bad it cannot be made up for, but no good so good it cannot be "made up for?"

This is a great question! I'm not sure I have any definitive answer, but perhaps the answer depends on what is meant by "made up for." If "made up for" means to not consider overall, then can we overall not consider some minor good in an essential evil, and can we overall not consider some minor evil in an essential good? It would seem as if the presence of some good in a fundamental evil is less significant than the presence of some evil in a fundamental good. Perhaps this is because value and disvalue are not really on the same scale. My disvalue of irrationality in one person is not the equal of my value of rationality in another. I do not disvalue evil on the same scale as I value the good, mainly because evil is metaphysically impotent, but the good is metaphysically powerful.

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If the absence of my possession is reversed by its return, that simply puts the possession back into the state it originally was, but it does not wipe out the fact of the theft or the multitiplicity of consequences of that act. So, what exactly would be "wiped out" and how would it be deserving of forgiveness?

If the thief offers me enough compensation to make the rest of my life easier (and thereby better) than it would have been before the injustice, then (given all the other conditions I named) I would consider his act, in terms of its consequences, to be "wiped out," that is, paid for.

(I will never forget that he did the injustice, and I will let my memory guide me in dealing or not dealing with him in the future, no matter what, but I would consider him to no longer be owing me -- which is what forgiveness is, in my book of etiquette.)

"Restitution" here, to me, means restoring my life, overall, to at least as good a condition as it was before -- thus making me fully glad to be moving into my future. I don't know the legal situation, but in effect, this is full restitution in my terms, an award, so to speak, for pain and suffering, an award that allows me to move on again. The award -- perhaps negotiated through attorneys -- should be big enough to make me glad to move on again. That is restitution in the full form.

Taking your example, if the thief offers and delivers to me one million dollars as additional compensation, that much money would free me of money concerns for the rest of my life, for sure. That would save me many hours and much sweating, and thus free me up to invest even more of my time in my favorite activities than I would have before the theft you described.

In other words, if the miscreant makes me at least as well off as I was before -- in the total context of my life -- I would be satisfied.

How big a chance is there that such a miscreant as you and I have named (thieves and arsonists) would be able to offer that much compensation? Probably next to none. And, of course, too, if I already had all the money I wanted, there would be probably no way the miscreant could compensate me, and thus zero chance of "forgiveness."

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If the thief offers me enough compensation to make the rest of my life easier (and thereby better) than it would have been before the injustice, then (given all the other conditions I named) I would consider his act, in terms of its consequences, to be "wiped out," that is, paid for.

(I will never forget that he did the injustice, and I will let my memory guide me in dealing or not dealing with him in the future, no matter what, but I would consider him to no longer be owing me -- which is what forgiveness is, in my book of etiquette.)

Okay. So to forgive is not to excuse the morality of the act, but for you to acknowledge that the existential consequences of the act have been sufficiently compensated for. But such compensation is just a simple matter of justice, and seems to be nothing more than payment due. What is "forgiving" adding above and beyond that?

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Okay. So to forgive is not to excuse the morality of the act, but for you to acknowledge that the existential consequences of the act have been sufficiently compensated for. But such compensation is just a simple matter of justice, and seems to be nothing more than payment due. What is "forgiving" adding above and beyond that?

Everyone is talking about whether one would forgive another, and under what conditions, etc., but at Stephen's post makes clear, I don't believe any clear definition (let alone a valid one) has been set forth yet for the concept 'forgiveness' (unless I missed it - and if so, I apologize). In a discussion pertaining to the morality of forgiveness, I think identifying such a definition is one of the first requirements.

--

As an additional question to consider once you have identified such a definition (and perhaps to help identify a valid definition), can one morally forgive one's self?

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Could you explain more about how this ethical balance sheet would work? For example, if Mr. A holds a door open for you when your arms are full of packages, that would go into the positive column, right? If Mr. A murders your closest friend, that would go into the negative side, right? Is the account now evenly balanced? Or would you give "weight" to each action by Mr. A in relation to you? If so, how would you go about calculating the effects?

Given those particular examples, no, the "account" wouldn't be evenly balanced. The gravity of the actions matters.

I originally put "balance sheet" in scare quotes because it's not literally some kind of balance. I wouldn't be able to begin to describe any sort of method for assigning precise values to good and bad actions. It's more a general sense based on experience.

For myself, I begin with a new person by crediting them a small amount of good will based on my life's experience that most people are basically good. (They're not perfect Objectivists, to be sure, but at least in America their sense of life is for the most part much better than their philosophy, and their actions are in general much better than their philosophy explicitly requires.) After that, their "balance" moves toward good or toward bad based on my knowledge of and interactions with them. The vast majority of people never stray far in either direction from that initial "credit," simply because I don't interact closely with the vast majority of people, so there's no basis for altering their "balance" much. It's the people I'm closer to, or about whom I know more, who tend to move further one way or the other.

Further, would you consider only Mr. A's actions?

No, his ideas would be important, too. Again, though, for most people I wouldn't ever have the chance to know their ideas all that well, so their actions would most likely have greater impact.
If so, would you consider only his actions towards you? For example, if Mr. A always treated you justly but tortured children in another neighborhood, would he still be in a positive state of "balance"?

If I knew that he did that sort of thing, he would be far into negative territory. At this point, too, issues of certainty come into play and have an effect. (I don't, however, want to turn this into a discussion of certainty - I think there's already a thread for that.) For example, I paid very little attention to the O.J. Simpson trial. I know extremely little about the evidence. Based on what I do know, I believe he's guilty, but I keep in mind how little I know. I also keep in mind how little direct impact the case has on my own life. O.J. has a pretty far "negative" balance with me, but it's provisional to an extent.
My questions are mostly rhetorical. They point at a major problem, the idea of a balance sheet itself. I see two issues, neither of which can be resolved by a balance sheet. First, the key problem is determining the nature of Mr. A's character. Is it essentially good or essentially bad? In some cases, this can take a lot of effort and time to sort out.

True, but character assessment is contextual. I know nothing about the character of my dentist except that, in our professional relationship, he is competent, responsible, courteous, and fair. As far as it goes, his "balance" is positive. I remain aware, though, that his "balance" is based on limited experience with him. If I were to learn more, then I would adjust accordingly.
Second, what is the nature of Mr. A's action in a particular case involving me? Was it just to me or not? Each act of justice deserves reward, in some form and at some time. Each act of injustice deserves reprimand, assuming the situation allows it (for example, assuming you won't lose a highly prized job in the process).

The connection between the first and the second questions is this: Mr. A's particular actions toward me are a part of the evidence I have about the essential nature of his character.

I think this fits with my previous paragraph.
To return to your main topic, forgiveness (wiping out past injustices), I would say that forgiveness is appropriate only where the miscreant himself has wiped out the past injustice by a full apology -- one which includes restitution, that is, restoring the situation to the original good condition, if possible. If restoration isn't possible, then neither is forgiveness.

For example, if an arsonist burns up the notes I have accumulated for a project for 10 years, I would never forgive him. The reason is simple: He could never wipe out the injustice -- even if he otherwise gave a full apology (one recognizing the nature of the error, demonstrating that he has a plan to change himself, and credibly promising to make restitution).

I agree with this, and with your further post about the nature of a complete restitution. I've always held that punishment is not sufficient - offenders ought to be made to "make things right," which would mean not only restoring what was taken or destroyed,* but repaying such things as the inconvenience and the cost of investigating and prosecuting their misdeeds. With interest.

However, even after full restitution in this sense, there would still remain the knowledge that this person did in fact choose to do the wrong in the first place. This remains part of my estimate, and affects the person's "balance," which means it affects my dealings with them (if those dealings still exist). It would take a lot of evidence of character change to overcome that. There are three specific people in my life who will all but certainly never achieve a positive "balance" with me, no matter how much restitution they may do (to date none of them have done any, and I would be shocked if any of them ever did). Trust lost is seldom regained.

*MOVIE SPOILER HERE One of my favorite, heavily serious depictions of justice is in an otherwise lighthearted movie, The Princess Bride. It's when Inigo finds the six-fingered man, corners him, gives him precisely the same wounds he gave Inigo, then makes him offer anything Inigo wants so Inigo doesn't kill him for killing his father. Inigo says, "I want my father back, you son of a bitch," and kills the six-fingered man. To me it's perfect justice - there cannot be sufficient restitution absent the return of Inigo's father, so Inigo says, in effect, "OK, go get my father. If you bring him back, I'll forgive you."

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This is a great question! I'm not sure I have any definitive answer, but perhaps the answer depends on what is meant by "made up for." If "made up for" means to not consider overall, then can we overall not consider some minor good in an essential evil, and can we overall not consider some minor evil in an essential good? It would seem as if the presence of some good in a fundamental evil is less significant than the presence of some evil in a fundamental good. Perhaps this is because value and disvalue are not really on the same scale. My disvalue of irrationality in one person is not the equal of my value of rationality in another. I do not disvalue evil on the same scale as I value the good, mainly because evil is metaphysically impotent, but the good is metaphysically powerful.

Initially, that seems to me to be backwards. If there can be an evil so bad it can never be made up for, but no good so good it can never be "made up for," doesn't that imply that evil is in that respect more powerful than good?

Consider murder: the dead can never be brought back, so it's literally impossible to make full restitution for murder, if restitution is, in part at least, restoration of the status prior to the evil act.

Now consider the "opposite" of murder: how many times have you heard someone say to a man who is the victim of a horrible marriage and/or divorce, when he states how evil his wife/ex is, "But she's the mother of your children - that counts for something." Well, no, not necessarily. If she really is that evil (and that is possible - think Lillian Rearden), she has negatively "made up for" the positive of providing him with the lives of his children. That supreme sort of positive can be wiped out by enough evil on her part - she can lose all "credit" for her otherwise incalculably good act.

If it can be so extreme that it cannot be corrected, and can negate even the greatest of good works, is evil truly impotent?

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"Restitution" here, to me, means restoring my life, overall, to at least as good a condition as it was before -- thus making me fully glad to be moving into my future. I don't know the legal situation, but in effect, this is full restitution in my terms, an award, so to speak, for pain and suffering, an award that allows me to move on again. The award -- perhaps negotiated through attorneys -- should be big enough to make me glad to move on again. That is restitution in the full form.

This has been my own view of "full restitution," ever since I thought the idea through. Whether via the legal system or not, restoration of that which was taken, damaged, or destroyed, plus recompense for everything I had to go through to reach the state I would have been in had the wrong never been done. Subject to reason, of course - I can't claim that some vandal keying my car prevented me from winning $100 million in the lottery the next day, but that's what full restitution comes to.

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Okay. So to forgive is not to excuse the morality of the act, but for you to acknowledge that the existential consequences of the act have been sufficiently compensated for. But such compensation is just a simple matter of justice, and seems to be nothing more than payment due. What is "forgiving" adding above and beyond that?

Good point. I always thought that to forgive was to say, in effect, "I will act as if the wrong you did me never happened and as if you are not the sort of person who would do such a thing." To forgive is to ignore the moral aspect.

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Everyone is talking about whether one would forgive another, and under what conditions, etc., but at Stephen's post makes clear, I don't believe any clear definition (let alone a valid one) has been set forth yet for the concept 'forgiveness' (unless I missed it - and if so, I apologize).  In a discussion pertaining to the morality of forgiveness, I think identifying such a definition is one of the first requirements.

Burgess did not offer a formal definition, but he certainly characterized his sense of "forgiveness" by saying that "I would consider him to no longer be owing me." That's why I pointed out the issue of justice and payment due. When people pay their debts they usually get back their IOU, not a certificate of forgiveness. I think forgiveness as generally used to give up a claim for which full payment has not or cannot be extracted, and that is certainly not the sense in which Burgess used the term.

As an additional question to consider once you have identified such a definition (and perhaps to help identify a valid definition), can one morally forgive one's self?

You're on a roll today. B)

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Everyone is talking about whether one would forgive another, and under what conditions, etc., but at Stephen's post makes clear, I don't believe any clear definition (let alone a valid one) has been set forth yet for the concept 'forgiveness' (unless I missed it - and if so, I apologize).  In a discussion pertaining to the morality of forgiveness, I think identifying such a definition is one of the first requirements.

Here's a help toward a definition:
Forgiveness in moral issues is earned, if the guilty party makes restitution to his victim, assuming this is applicable; and then demonstrates objectively, through word and deed, that he understands the roots of his moral breach, has reformed his character, and will not commit such wrong again. Forgiveness is unearned, if the guilty party wants the victim simply to forget (evade) the breach and forgive without cause—or if he offers as cause nothing but protestations of atonement, which the victim is expected to accept on faith. In regard to minor moral lapses, it is not difficult for a man to demonstrate the necessary understanding and reform. If the vice is sizable, however, such demonstration is no easy matter; in many cases, it is impossible. When a man commits an evil like a major robbery or deception, to say nothing of worse crimes, it is difficult even to know what evidence would be required to convince others of his reform. This problem is one of the many penalties of vice, and it is the responsibility not of the good, but of the evil to solve it; assuming, what is seldom if ever the case, that moral reform is what the evil man is seeking.

Forgiveness, which is legitimate when earned, must be distinguished from mercy. If justice is the policy of identifying a man's deserts and acting accordingly, mercy is the policy of identifying them, then not acting accordingly: lessening the appropriate punishment in a negative case or failing to impose any punishment. Mercy substitutes for justice a dose of the undeserved and does so in the name of pity; the pity is not for the innocent among men or the good, but for the perpetrators of evil. The innocent man (or the truly reformed wrongdoer) asks for justice, not mercy. He wants what is coming to him.

As an additional question to consider once you have identified such a definition (and perhaps to help identify a valid definition), can one morally forgive one's self?

I think this applies as much to oneself as to others:
Make every allowance for errors of knowledge; do not forgive or accept any breach of morality.

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This is a great question! I'm not sure I have any definitive answer, but perhaps the answer depends on what is meant by "made up for." If "made up for" means to not consider overall, then can we overall not consider some minor good in an essential evil, and can we overall not consider some minor evil in an essential good? It would seem as if the presence of some good in a fundamental evil is less significant than the presence of some evil in a fundamental good. Perhaps this is because value and disvalue are not really on the same scale. My disvalue of irrationality in one person is not the equal of my value of rationality in another. I do not disvalue evil on the same scale as I value the good, mainly because evil is metaphysically impotent, but the good is metaphysically powerful.

Initially, that seems to me to be backwards. If there can be an evil so bad it can never be made up for, but no good so good it can never be "made up for," doesn't that imply that evil is in that respect more powerful than good?

Consider murder: the dead can never be brought back, so it's literally impossible to make full restitution for murder, if restitution is, in part at least, restoration of the status prior to the evil act.

First, I was talking about evil as being metaphysically impotent. Meaning that evil is anti-life, anti-reason, a destructor not a creator. Left to itself it has no power to survive. That is not to say that in any existential act that evil cannot destroy any particular great value; obviously it can, and it does.

Second, my overall point was that evil dilutes the good more than the good enhances evil, precisely because we value the good far more than we disvalue evil. That is the reason that it seems more difficult to overlook some evil within the good as compared to ignoring some good in the evil.

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Okay. So to forgive is not to excuse the morality of the act, but for you to acknowledge that the existential consequences of the act have been sufficiently compensated for. But such compensation is just a simple matter of justice, and seems to be nothing more than payment due. What is "forgiving" adding above and beyond that?

Good point. I always thought that to forgive was to say, in effect, "I will act as if the wrong you did me never happened and as if you are not the sort of person who would do such a thing." To forgive is to ignore the moral aspect.

Several times Andy Bernstein filled in for Leonard Peikoff on Peikoff's old radio show. I will never forget the caller whose first words were meant to identify himself: "I'm a Christian" the caller said. Immediately, without a moments hesitation, Andy Bernstein responded with "I forgive you."

The notion of "forgiveness" has come to mean to excuse the unearned. There is no Christian virtue in forgiving those who deserve it; only in forgiving those who do not. And, I think in a way they are right. If a person has done all that is proper to rectify a wrong, then it is a simple matter of justice and there is nothing to be forgiven.

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Second, my overall point was that evil dilutes the good more than the good enhances  evil, precisely because we value the good far more than we disvalue evil. That is the reason that it seems more difficult to overlook some evil within the good as compared to ignoring some good in the evil.

I agree from the perspective of values. But from another perspective, I think the key is the role of consistency.

The good requires consistency to be good; to be good in principle means being good across the board. Evil, by contrast, would self-destruct if consistent, and so requires compromise.

An honest man, for instance, is one who doesn't lie. If a man does lie (even on very rare occasions, but in contexts where it is immoral to do so) he can't claim to adhere to the principle of honesty. The lack of consistency does him in. The one violation is illuminated against the background of honesty, making it stand in stark contrast. That makes it really noticed.

By contrast, a dishonest man can't be dishonest entirely. He has to occasionally tell the truth for his lies to be believed. Thus, one expects the occasional good in evil people. Because it is expected, it doesn't stand out.

So, rare instances of evil in good people stand out far more strongly than instances of good in evil people.

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If a person has done all that is proper to rectify a wrong, then it is a simple matter of justice and there is nothing to be forgiven.

I agree that the concept has come to mean giving something that is unearned. But I would suggest that the concept 'forgiveness' can be a valid one. In the context of your quote, could not the concept 'forgiveness' be validly identified as that act of justice when a violated individual acknowledges a violator "has done all that is proper to rectify a wrong"?

In other words, after the act of justice called 'restitution' is performed by the violator, another act of justice is then performed, by the victim, acknowledging that the restitution is sufficient to rectify the wrong, and thus eliminating the debt the violator owes him.

Using the Princess Bride example, there are obviously some acts of injustice in which no restitution can rectify the wrong. In such cases, forgiveness cannot be earned, because the debt incurred by the violation can never be repaid. However, in a car theft example, the return of the car, along with any compensatory damages, would be enough to rectify the wrong - to pay the debt. And, as such, the victim of the car theft would recognize that rectification - a recognition identified as 'forgiveness'.

In such a manner, one can also forgive one's self for certain violations - so long as one does pay the restitution - the debt incurred by the violation. Of course this would mean there are also some things one cannot forgive one's self for - because there are some acts for which one can never make enough restitution. (I think this last line of thought might need to be pursued further to confirm its validity)

(I know the above is just a somewhat different way of saying essentially the same thing as that said in the OPAR quote provided by piz, but I thought I would make the point anyway, since it seems you are implying that forgiveness is not a concept which pertains to justice.)

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Second, my overall point was that evil dilutes the good more than the good enhances  evil, precisely because we value the good far more than we disvalue evil. That is the reason that it seems more difficult to overlook some evil within the good as compared to ignoring some good in the evil.

I agree from the perspective of values. But from another perspective, I think the key is the role of consistency.

The good requires consistency to be good; to be good in principle means being good across the board. Evil, by contrast, would self-destruct if consistent, and so requires compromise.

An honest man, for instance, is one who doesn't lie. If a man does lie (even on very rare occasions, but in contexts where it is immoral to do so) he can't claim to adhere to the principle of honesty. The lack of consistency does him in. The one violation is illuminated against the background of honesty, making it stand in stark contrast. That makes it really noticed.

By contrast, a dishonest man can't be dishonest entirely. He has to occasionally tell the truth for his lies to be believed. Thus, one expects the occasional good in evil people. Because it is expected, it doesn't stand out.

So, rare instances of evil in good people stand out far more strongly than instances of good in evil people.

That is a really brilliant identification, Ed. Thank you for that.

And thanks again to piz for bringing this issue up.

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If a person has done all that is proper to rectify a wrong, then it is a simple matter of justice and there is nothing to be forgiven.

I agree that the concept has come to mean giving something that is unearned. But I would suggest that the concept 'forgiveness' can be a valid one. In the context of your quote, could not the concept 'forgiveness' be validly identified as that act of justice when a violated individual acknowledges a violator "has done all that is proper to rectify a wrong"?

It could, if that is what the people involved understand the meaning of forgiveness to be. My point is that that is not how the word is generally used, and no acknowledgement beyond justice being served is really required. The notion of "forgiveness" as stated in virtually any dictionary is never just an acknowledgement of the other's actions, but an action that one takes oneself. The person who is doing the forgiving is said to be relinquishing or giving up something he is owed or is holding within himself. That is not simply a matter of acknowledging justice being done. I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan Rosman's comments in this post . His words reflect my own view.

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Question: aren't there two parts to the concept of forgiveness, the philosophical component and the psychological component? For example, take this definition of the word from www.dictionary.com:

to forgive is to grant pardon without harboring resentment
There's the "pardon" part involving the ethical considerations of justice and everything that's been discussed in this thread up to now. But there's also the desire not to "harbor resentment" part, which is psychological and has to do with the emotional state of the person himself, rather than simply the issue of justice regarding what someone else has done.

I've often heard it said that part of the reason why forgiveness is good in its own right, regardless of the justice component, is because it allows the person to be free from negative emotions like resentment, and is conducive to emotional tranquility (for example, in therapy some therapists will often say to let go of the sense of injustice the person may feels from others, to release negativity from their soul). I certainly find the disregard for justice in the popular definition of "forgiveness" abhorrent, but the part about minimizing resentment and producing greater emotional tranquility does seem to make some interesting sense. What do others think?

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I certainly find the disregard for justice in the popular definition of "forgiveness" abhorrent, but the part about minimizing resentment and producing greater emotional tranquility does seem to make some interesting sense. What do others think?

But why do you need someone else in order to let go of some of your feelings. Afterall, the object of forgiveness is the other person; you supposedly forgive him.

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In a discussion pertaining to the morality of forgiveness, I think identifying such a definition is one of the first requirements.?

Forgiveness means to hold someone morally blameless for doing something.

I might forgive someone if I found out a misdeed was actually done by someone else or if it happened unintentionally and not on purpose.

As an additional question to consider once you have identified such a definition (and perhaps to help identify a valid definition), can one morally forgive one's self?

Certainly, IF you have made amends if necessary, corrected the cause of a misdeed, and are no longer motivated to do it again. At that point you may feel regret for your actions in the past, but there is no longer anything to feel guilty about in the present.

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But why do you need someone else in order to let go of some of your feelings.
Well you don't, really, it's all within yourself. But it's that other person who is the cause of the resentment within you, so the psychological 'letting go' would have to be in regards to that person, wouldn't it (i.e. not just in general, but with a concrete person, and a concrete action, in mind)?

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It could, if that is what the people involved understand the meaning of forgiveness to be. My point is that that is not how the word is generally used, and no acknowledgement beyond justice being served is really required.

I agree that is not how the term is generally used. However, I would suggest that, because there are different means by which justice is served (restitution in some instances, incarceration in others, the forfeiture of life in still others, etc) depending upon the violation, that specific concepts which identify those means are "really required". In this instance, the distinction drawn (one I believe is a very important one) is between justice served where the violator "has done all that is proper to rectify a wrong" and justice served but where the violator is unwilling or incapable of rectifying a wrong. In other words, the difference is, as the OPAR reference suggests, one between identifying an individual who has engaged in and achieved moral reform and treating him accordingly (ie justly) - and identifying an individual who has not engaged in moral reform and treating him accordingly. If one acknowledges these two very distinct catagories and considers the difference between them to be an important one, then I think one sees as well the need for a concept which identifies that difference clearly. And I think 'forgiveness' fits that bill nicely.

The notion of "forgiveness" as stated in virtually any dictionary is never just an acknowledgement of the other's actions, but an action that one takes oneself. The person who is doing the forgiving is said to be relinquishing or giving up something he is owed or is holding within himself. That is not simply a matter of acknowledging justice being done.

Then, just like with the term 'selfish' I suggest that we correctly identify a proper definition for the term and use that, rather than abandon the term to those who improperly define it. B)

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But why do you need someone else in order to let go of some of your feelings.

Well you don't, really, it's all within yourself. But it's that other person who is the cause of the resentment within you, so the psychological 'letting go' would have to be in regards to that person, wouldn't it (i.e. not just in general, but with a concrete person, and a concrete action, in mind)?

But you left out the second on my two sentences: "Afterall, the object of forgiveness is the other person; you supposedly forgive him." My point is that what you describe is not "forgiveness."

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