The Nature and Appropriateness of Forgiveness Requests
Cherry, Myisha V
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What might motivate us to make forgiveness requests? What is the nature of these requests? Are forgiveness requests always appropriate? These are the three main questions I take up in this dissertation. I begin by claiming that the emotive and relational accounts of forgiveness do not sufficiently answer the first question. However, the practice-based account does. Thus, I argue that requesters are motivated to make forgiveness requests because they are interested in if the potential forgiver has or will participate in a moral practice with the aim of release, relief, or repair for the victim or offender. Throughout chapters 2-4 I answer the second and third questions. I argue in chapter 2 that forgiveness requests are not one thing. There are different kinds of requests for forgiveness such as ‘requests in the blame sense’. There are also different kinds of requests about forgiveness such as ‘predictive inquiries’. I provide arguments for why certain requests are and are not morally appropriate. But I also claim that only particular individuals have the standing to make requests in their appropriate forms in private. I conclude by explaining when this standing can transfer to the public sphere. In chapters 3 and 4 I ask about requests’ appropriateness in contexts in which the wrongdoing is political or when the forgiveness has social and political consequences. I am particularly interested in requests made by third parties. I begin by looking at the forgiveness requests of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I claim that the commission could have escaped major philosophical criticisms if they adopted the practice-based account of forgiveness. While there are also things we can learn from the TRC’s use of forgiveness requests, we should not be quick in thinking that those good aspects can easily transfer to the United States. In the final chapter, I address forgiveness requests made in the United States. The context I am interested in is when the victim is black, the wrongdoer is nonblack or a state actor, and the wrongdoing is physical violence. I argue that public requests made in this context shows race-based disrespect and could make forgiveness less likely. I spend a brief portion of the conclusion making proposals of alternative questions that can achieve the same aims of forgiveness requests, but without their moral risks.
Subjectforgiveness, anger, apologies