The next Forum for Philosophical Research Seminar is
3 June 2009
12:00 – 14:00
Claus Moser Building, CM0.12A
Dr Monica Mookherjee (Politics) will give a paper on: Did a Human Being Die That Night? On Political Forgiveness
Debates about forgiveness and reconciliation abound in countries such as South Africa, Australia and Northern Ireland, which seek to overcome troubled histories of inter-group conflict. While few political philosophers doubt the value of reconciliation in these contexts, forgiveness is often treated with caution. Partly, the concern is that it always represents a strategic, interest-based negotiation and fails to evince true respect for victims of past wrongs. A different worry is that political forgiveness is paradoxical: it only seems necessary in respect of that which states cannot punish or in relation to which the discourse of justice is silent – namely the atrocious and unforgivable. My paper responds to these issues by defending ‘political forgiveness as a process’. First, I explain the asymmetrical relation between forgiveness for historical wrongs and retributive or rectificatory justice (an ambiguous relationship which motivates the question in my paper-title). Then, drawing on Gutmann and Thompson’s writings on the moral foundations of Truth Commissions and Duff’s communicative theory of punishment, I argue that three conditions (i.e., further retributive punishment undermines shared inquiry; shared deliberative inquiry; and mediated responsibility for future moral repair) initiate a forward-looking process of forgiveness that appreciates the problems associated with a relentless effort to settle old scores. This process respects both the wrongdoer and wronged as responsible agents and promises to secure, even after an apparently unforgivable past, moral goods comparable to those lost through compromising on one’s pursuit of justice.
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