Luke Russell: "Forgiving is Not the Exercise of a Normative Power"
- Date: –13:00
- Location: Engelska parken - Eng2-1022
- Organiser: Department of Philosophy
- Contact person: Folke Tersman
The Higher Seminar in Practical Philosophy
Luke Russell, The University of Sydney: "Forgiving is Not the Exercise of a Normative Power"
Brandon Warmke and Christopher Bennett have argued that forgiving ought to be understood as the exercise of a normative power, analogous to promising or to pardoning. They think that in forgiving, the victim waives some of the wrongdoer's obligations (e.g. the obligation to apologise and compensate the victim). They also think that in forgiving, the victim creates new obligations for herself (e.g. the obligation not to blame or shame the wrongdoer). In this paper I argue against the view that forgiving is the exercise of a normative power. Forgiving frequently does not alter the obligations of the victim or of the perpetrator in the way that Warmke and Bennett suggest. Moreover, forgiving often is a gradual, non-voluntary, private process, which looks nothing like an intentional action aimed at changing the normative landscape. Rather than define forgiveness in terms of the "central case" of waiving and creating obligations, I think that we best understand forgiveness by first focusing on the end state: the state in which the victim has forgiven the wrongdoer. Any process that gets the victim from the prior state to the end state counts as forgiving. What Warmke and Bennett are talking about is merely one of many possible mechanisms by which some people try to get into the end state of having forgiven.