The Unforgiven and the Unforgivable: On the Nature and Limits of Forgiveness
In this thesis, I argue in favour of the moral significance of an essentialist account of forgiveness. In chapter two, I analyse the emergence of this view – which defines forgiveness as the rational foreswearing of resentment – and how it has been used to differentiate between forgiveness and other moral activities. In chapter three, I contrast this with a non-essentialist perspective to uncover both the moral and instrumental aims of forgiveness. In chapter four, I examine views which have incorporated these aims in order to posit that no moral agent should be regarded as absolutely unforgivable in principle. Next, in chapter five, I provide an alternative conception of the value of respect for persons to demonstrate how our foundational moral commitments demand absolute unforgivability in some cases of wrongdoing, such as murder. I conclude in chapter six with a discussion of how this account should inform moral deliberations for dyadic cases of wrongdoing, and I suggest where and how it should be implemented in polyadic cases and in the context of a more thoroughgoing ethical project.