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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L157-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2020
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Forgiveness is a response to wrongdoing characterised by forswearing or overcoming the fullness of the blame that one could otherwise justifiably hold against a wrongdoer. Forgiveness is distinct from dropping, ignoring, forgetting, or excusing a wrong. Most philosophers take forgiveness to be compatible with punishment and therefore distinct from pardon or mercy as well.

Some philosophers describe forgiveness as primarily an internal process, characterized by a change of heart or a choice to revise one’s dispositions, beliefs, or attitudes towards an offender. Others describe forgiveness as primarily a social practice, characterised by effecting a morally significant consequence such as the release or relief of an offender.

Central debates concern what reasons justify forswearing the fullness of one’s blame, who is in a position to do so, whether forgiveness must be communicated to one’s wrongdoer, whether it is always an undeserved gift or may be obligatory, and how it works, that is, what processes are involved in forswearing or overcoming the fullness of blame.

Citing this article:
Norlock, Kathryn J.. Forgiveness, 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L157-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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