Our ideas about forgiveness seem to oscillate between purism and pessimism. One might think this simply indicates disagreement, or indecision, but I suspect not. I see these different attitudes as representing opposing moments of a collective moral ambivalence about forgiveness that is well grounded, and I aim to show that there is a philosophical angle on forgiveness capable of vindicating both of our opposing perspectives simultaneously. Once we are correctly positioned, we shall see an aspect of forgiveness that precisely recommends the ambivalence. For what will come into view will be certain key psychological mechanisms of moral-epistemic influence—both other-addressed and self-addressed mechanisms of moral social construction—that enable forgiveness to function well when it is well-functioning, but which are also intrinsically prone to deterioration into one or another form of bad faith. Thus forgiveness is revealed as necessarily containing seeds of its own corruption, and ambivalence is proved a permanently appropriate attitude.
CUNY Graduate Center
City University of New York
Peabody Hall, Room 115
Scott & Heather Kleiner Lecture Series