In my chapter I explore the abuse of forgiveness in the context of coming to terms with past violence in social and international relationships. The risk of abuse in this context is determined by several factors, such as political interests and the national or religious identities of participating groups, particularly their self-images as victims or perpetrators, which are constructed in relation to memories of past conflicts. The abuse of forgiveness takes different forms and concerns both parties - the one seeking forgiveness and the one granting it. Generally speaking, forgiveness is abused when it is used more to gain an advantage than to restore a damaged relationship. Understanding the abuse of forgiveness depends on how forgiveness is defined. In my chapter I make use of the Christian theological notion of forgiveness because, firstly, it has often been transferred into political contexts from the religious sphere and, secondly, social and political forgiveness has often involved the participation of religious organizations as well as religiously-motivated individuals. Overall, on the basis of an examination of post-war Polish-German relations, this chapter focuses on the question: why and how do processes of memory and identity formation lead to such abuses?
The concept of forgiveness is a complex one when viewed within the context of a counselling psychology practice. Clients for whom the concept is relevant include survivors of crime, including childhood sexual abuse, victims of motor vehicle accidents, war veterans, and people injured at work. Many variables can be relevant with regard to forgiveness by a survivor. If clients perceive ‘forgiveness’ and ‘forgetting’ as the same, they are unlikely to see forgiveness as desirable, or indeed, as something they are able to do. For some clients, acknowledgement or an apology from the offender/perpetrator can determine whether or not they can forgive. There may be differences related to whether the offender is dead, whether there has been a prior relationship with the offender, or whether or not the offender has been punished. Whether someone is a primary victim or a secondary victim could have an effect on the ability to forgive, as can the relationship of the survivor to the offender. Self-forgiveness can be a significant factor in many instances. The perspective of the counselling psychologist is also important. Some psychologists see forgiveness as an important aspect of healing for the client, whereas others consider it less important. The meaning of ‘forgiveness’ is of relevance, whether ‘forgiveness’ is synonymous with ‘letting go’ or ‘moving on,’ or whether there is a qualitative difference. There can be negative consequences if the concept is introduced prematurely with clients. It may be that while forgiveness can be important for some survivors, for others it is not necessary for their healing.
Forgiveness is concerned with past offences. We speak of turning back time, of setting right past wrongs, but as plain experience shows, there is no way of altering or even accessing the past, nor, aside from deception or wishful thinking, of making a past evil into something good. In this chapter I will argue that the impossibility of turning back time does not present an impasse for forgiveness. Rather, on closer inspection this metaphysical problem gives way to an ethical one: the seeming impossibility of the misdeed itself. The real problem is not the impossibility of turning back time but the impossibility of making sense of the seemingly unprovoked attack, the crime without a motive, or the utter reversal of values. Memories of such absurd events resist explanation and refuse to be integrated into a meaningful narrative. This shift from the problem of time to the apparent impossibility of the misdeed itself raises the question of radical evil. Is evil merely a privation of the good or is it a principle in itself? Is the human being capable of willing evil for its own sake? The claim that every offence can be forgiven implies that even in the worst of wrongs there is some good at which the wrongdoer aims, as distorted as it may be. I will argue that forgiveness presupposes the orientation of the human will to the good. Discovering this remnant of the good which allows, not a full, but a partial explanation of the misdeed is a crucial step for the victim who seeks to forgive.
Composers of art music in Australia have a history of appropriating Indigenous musical material with the aim of creating a distinctly Australian musical idiom. This attempt at manufacturing a sense of cultural identity has been done over many decades without any regard for the religious and social significance of the musical material in question. In addition to being insensitive to the cultural sensibilities of Indigenous Australians, these appropriations have often been characterised as a form of advocacy for Indigenous culture. The paternalistic mind-set represented by such characterisations has been one obstacle in the on-going process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Through an examination of several significant pieces of Australian art music, this chapter explores how non-Indigenous Australian musicians are gradually changing their practice with regard to the musical materials of various Indigenous Australian peoples. By considering composers’ changing use of Indigenous music, the critical reception of such works, and the scholarly discourse that surrounds such interactions, this chapter posits that, increasingly, Australian composers are preferring collaboration over appropriation as not only a means of forgiveness and reconciliation between peoples, but also as a de rigueur ethical practice.
Forgiveness entails two aspects: first, it involves an act of imputation, an assertion that an other has committed an offence and is culpable for it, and which thereby establishes a social debt; and second, an act of release, which involves a sacrifice of social debt and a gift to the other of revalidated social standing. This gift attempts to repair or preserve the face of the other, which potentially had been damaged in the act of offence. Although the offender is not the primary victim of the offensive or injurious action, s/he often is injured socially and/or interpersonally by the affects of that offense, particularly the guiltiness that stems from acknowledged or imputed culpability. Both aspects are crucial to forgiveness. Imputation gives the offended some measure of power in registering the other’s guilt, granting the situation of offense meaning that validates the experience of the offended. Imputation in this sense is an act of contained aggression and symbolic violence. But is does not function alone. If it is to refashion the social relations breached by the offense, it also must release the offender from the stigma of imputation, containing the exposure of the other to social and interpersonal forms of rancor and stigma due to guilt. In forgiveness, the offended takes on the responsibility of preserving the face of the other, the offended. He or she does so by foreclosing the power of the offense to define the offender and his or her position in the social field. As such, it is a sacrifice and a gift.
Kimberly M. Goard
One of the most potentially damaging claims made by philosophers against unconditional forgiveness is that, in some cases, the victim is disrespecting herself by imparting forgiveness to her offender. When an offender is unrepentant or when the offense is significant given the particular relationship, then, it is claimed, a victim’s self-respect might be threatened or further damaged as she offers forgiveness. This is also thought to be true when the wrongdoing is perpetual and relentless or when the offense contributes to the subjugation and oppression of a disadvantaged group (especially a group of which she is a part). While self-respect is one of the most important values discussed in contemporary philosophy, its supposed instances of incompatibility with unconditional forgiveness are dubious. This chapter will attempt to lend some support to the idea that it is self-respecting to always and unconditionally forgive, at least when unconditionally forgiving is part of one’s conception of the moral life. This will be done by maintaining the importance of some of the usual definitional restrictions of the term, ‘forgiveness,’ and by discussing the implications forgiveness and unforgiveness have on the self-respect of a victim who many scholars are likely to say should not forgive.
Edited by Timothy McKenry and Charlotte Bruun Thingholm
The Abdulhamid II Era (r. 1876-1909) is one of the most controversial periods in Ottoman history. As a turning point between the 1839 Imperial Edict of Reorganization and 1908 Constitutional Revolution, it was marked by a legitimisation crisis, decline of monarchy, autocracy and censure, separatist national movements, centralisation of the authority, foreign pressure and the bankruptcy of the economy. I argue that pardons played a particular role in this context. The pardoning power was a political tool of the Sultan to solve certain problems and it worked better than the fulfilment of a punishment in establishing a legitimate and just rule in the eyes of the people. This policy was especially applied during the Armenian Events of 1890s, the banditry problem and tribal conflicts. Through the prerogative power of forgiveness, the Sultan tried to restore the monarchical ideology, namely the merciful image of Sultanic rule which was a distinctive element of monarchical power. On the other hand, these pardons also reflected certain expectations of the popular classes. Generally speaking, the convicts used many discursive strategies in requesting pardon through petitions, which can be found in abundance in the Ottoman archives. These pardon petitions mentioned the innocence of the convict, the miserable conditions of prisoners and their families, and the diseases that they faced in jail. Through emphasising the justness, dignity and mercy of the Sultan side by side with their weakness, ignorance and poverty, the convicts pleaded for mercy from him. However, in granting pardons, the Abdulhamid regime expected from the convict not simply loyalty or regret but also certain services such as active collaboration on particular issues; a tension which constituted the dynamics of the pardon negotiations.
Timothy McKenry and Charlotte Bruun Thingholm
Alberto L. Siani
Forgiveness has apparently to do with either the individual-psychological sphere or with a religious/political dimension. It does not seem to be a philosophically relevant topic and, in fact, there have not been many remarkable philosophical investigations about it. One of the most significant is made in the last pages of the Spirit chapter of G. W. F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), where forgiveness is given a philosophically decisive function. In a first step I sketch the features and the role of forgiveness in Hegel’s text. However, my aim is not a faithful reconstruction of Hegel’s argument, but rather, starting from its categories, the development of an idealistically-inspired and systematically-attractive philosophical reflection on forgiveness. In a second step I interpret the Hegelian concepts to work out four main aspects of forgiveness, developing a partial philosophical definition of it as a) activity, and not simple re-activity or passivity; b) rehabilitation of the meaningfulness of the linguistic act; c) integral concreteness; and d) recognition and acceptance of contingency.