Friday, January 23, 2009
from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is it possible to forgive? + News
This Sunday we are discussing the theme of forgiveness: Is it possible to forgive? I am also enclosing Richard’s and my essay. We should have a lot to talk about.
In the meantime Margie has sent me details about a performing event “The Second Mad Open Mic: Captured Words” which is going to be organised in March 4th. If you want to participate or attend see the details below.
See you Sunday
IF YOU DON’T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Yahoo group >> firstname.lastname@example.org <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
Dimas Taxi service: mobile 627 219 316 email email@example.com
TINA Flat http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/photosphilo/TINAFLAT
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar); http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar
Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria); http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
The Second Mad Open Mic: Captured Words
Café Concierto La Fídula
Calle Huertas, 57 Madrid in the Barrio de las Letras
Metro: Anton Martin, Sevilla, Banco
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Performing will begin at 9:00 pm
To register and for further information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.elasunto.com/mkd.htm
Come to present your own work or just to listen in. Open to the public. No entry fee. You pay (only) for what you consume.
Guidelines for Performers:
- Your presentation must be your own creative words; spoken or read-spoken. It can be a story, poem, lyrics (but no music), creative essay...
- We will readspeak in cycles of 3-6 minutes each depending upon how many we are. Please prepare your work in combinations of 3 minutes each to allow for flexibility in scheduling. If there is time, there will be a second cycle. Please clock your readings ahead of time.
- Sign up by emailing: email@example.com by February 26, 2009.
- Put Open Mic in the Subject or Asunto of the email.
- Include a short sample of your work or give me an idea of what you are planning to readspeak to help in the planning.
- Late registrants will be included when possible.
- Presentations will be in English.
- For updates check: www.elasunto.com/mkd.htm
IS IT POSSIBLE TO FORGIVE? (Richard)
In order to answer this question, I must know what “to forgive means” I am afraid I don’t know the accurate meaning of the word. But this fact does not absolve me from writing on forgiveness and sharing my reflexions with you.
So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. As I am an ignorant on the matter, I had better consult some dictionaries. I will not restrict myself to the English language only. As a multilingual person, with your permission, I will delve into some other languages to confront the same meaning of the word. Is it the same?
The English dictionaries are at one as far as the intransitive usage of the word is concerned, namely it means to grant forgiveness. We are rather interested in its transitive use to forgive sb or to forgive sth or moreover: to forgive sb sth or forgive sb for doing sth. It means to give up resentment of or claim to requital for sth (forgive an insult); to grant relief from payment (to forgive a debt), but I suppose we are all much more interested in the meaning: to cease to feel resentment against sb, who is an offender, to pardon (to forgive one’s enemies) (Merriam-Webster Online)
To forgive “is to pardon with compassion usually on a directly personal level.” (Cassell’s Modern Guide to Synonyms).
Forgiveness “is typically defined as the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger for a perceived offence, difference or mistake and ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.” (Wiki Encyclopedia)
It is interesting to note that English follows the direct translation from Latin per don?re: per = for and don?re = give /donate. So we obtain the English “Pardon” or “For-give.” The one that directly follows from Latin is formal in this context and was reserved for God or for those in power/authority, for other mortals only to forgive is used. English, which is considered more concise language than Spanish, is richer in synonyms: to pardon, forgive, excuse, condone, overlook, remit.
It seems to me that the most reasonable definition of forgiveness is given by a psychologist Robert Enright who says that it is
“Giving up the resentment to which you are entitled, and offering to the persons who hurt you friendlier attitudes to which they are not entitled." (…)
“Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. One will never forget some things, but this does not mean you need to dwell on it and forgiving is not the same as excusing, because you are not excusing the behaviour or pretending that it did not hurt”.1
In DE the other way round. Only God or the authority can vergeben (for-give). All other mortals can only verzeihen (ver-zeihen, to take back pointing finger at sb, take back the accusation), in other words they can only excuse. I owe the second part of this explanation to Kevin Johnson, from a friend of mine from AllExperts.com.
But in SE förgiva / förge is not used anymore in this meaning, but in the meaning of “to poison”. The word förlåtelse (thoroughly let it go of) means giving up on all the bitter feelings and ideas on punishment that one has harboured before against sb who has done some harm.
I also like the defintion given by Birgit Peterson, MD and therapist who says that “To forgive is the same as to give oneself or sb else the chance to build up the confidence that got lost and which may be appreciated by both sides. Forgiveness may be seen as a gift from one to another”.2
In ES “perdón implica la idea de una condonación, remisión, cese de una falta, ofensa, demanda, castigo, indignación o ira, eximiendo al culpable de una obligación, discrepancia o error” (RAE, following Wiki).
In PT very similar to ES, but perdoar (perdão) is reserved for bigger, more important issues and desculpar for everyday cases.
In PL: Przebaczy? / Wybaczy? (I am afraid I don’t know the difference between the two; I even consulted the Polish Dictionary and it does not point out any difference) means ceasing to feel anger / wrath or resentment against sb because of something that has happened; it means also absolving sb from guilt.
In RU ??????? proshtchat’ = to condescend, not to blame, to pardon, to free sb from obligations.
As we can see, there is not a very clear-cut definition of forgiveness.
The matter of forgiveness embraces two parties: the forgiver and the forgiven, even if the latter is not alive. And sometimes the two parties merge in one: the person’s dilemma is whether they should forgive themselves.
Although most of us here have been educated in Christian tradition, under no circumstances will I touch upon religion, because I think that even within Christian community the opinions are divided. I had better stick to the ethical / moral grounds to which the topic fully belongs.
My personal view is that this is one of few topics where objectivity does not exist. There is no human or mathematical science that would objectively state what is right and what is wrong. Besides, it is one of few topics that does not admit generalizations, even though any generalization on any subject may be not proper or even harmful but they are often necessary to make.
I am more than convinced that each case, however similar it may be, is different. One could say that for instance in legal matters each case is a case, but in practical terms similar cases follow the same procedure, mainly for bureaucratic reasons. As forgiveness is not an institutionalized matter (excluding some sporadic cases) but only personal, there is no bureaucracy involved.
In concordance with the times we live accompanied by the thought here in Europe at least that the only thing which is worth fighting for is peace at all costs. So everything should be settled through peaceful means. I am not talking about politics only. So how to bring a permanent peace? Any act of violence should not be retaliated because retribution leads to the chain of violence and therefore the idea of forgiving has been very much emphasized for the last 20 years. Everyone wants to live in peace.
The idea is not new. It is very old, as old as hills. A good man should forgive, should not look for vengeance. A new fashion has come. To blame, to seek vengeance even to pass judgements is considered wrong, even a crime. Why? Because the budding problem must get a nip in the bud, or else it develops and will bring violence and this should be averted.
I am not questioning the nobleness of such thinking but is it feasible to get rid of human negative feelings overnight because it has been fashionable to promote only goodness and positive thinking? We would stop being humans if we stopped hating, being jealous, being vindictive or stopped expressing anger (preserving obviously our positive characteristics as well). Is it the right way to improve the human race? Is there another theoretical Nietzsche on the horizon or a new Hitler to implement the plan?
The army of psychologists appeal to us telling us that to forgive sb does not mean absolving them from guilt. John Gray even tries to change the definition of forgiveness saying that it is not freeing the offender from guilt, because “forgiveness frees us [the forgiver] from continuing to hold on to our pain”3, because it lets us go of hurt and this opens the path to happiness, peace and love. Others, one can see on the web quite a few such sentences like these: “forgiveness: principle for health and happiness” "hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored." They say that “studies show that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurt”. So if you want to live such a life you must forgive even the unforgivable.
Another important psychologist is Larry James. He says:
“The greatest misconception about forgiveness is the belief that forgiving the offense, such as an affair, means that you condone it. Not true. In fact, we can only forgive what we know to be wrong. Forgiveness does not mean that you have to reconcile with someone who badly treated you.
Another misconception is that it depends on whether the person who did you wrong apologizes, wants you back, or changes his or her ways. If another person's poor behavior were the primary determinant for your healing then the unkind and selfish people in your life would retain power over you indefinitely. Forgiveness is the experience of finding peace inside and can neither be compelled nor stopped by another.
I believe that to withhold forgiveness is to choose to continue to remain the victim. Remember, you always have choice. When you forgive you do it for you, not for the other. The person you have never forgiven. . . owns you! How about an affair? Just because you choose to forgive, does not mean you have to stay in the relationship. That is only and always your choice. The choice to forgive is only and always yours”.4 He mentions other opinions5.
LoveNote. . . One pardons to the degree that one loves. - Francios De La Rochefoucauld
LoveNote. . . Love is an act of endless forgiveness. - Peter Ustinov
LoveNote. . . Genuine forgiveness is participation, reunion overcoming the powers of estrangement. . . We cannot love unless we have accepted forgiveness, and the deeper our experience of forgiveness is, the greater is our love. - Paul Tillich
LoveNote. . . To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness. - Robert Muller
LoveNote. . . Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much. - Oscar Wilde
LoveNote. . . The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. - Mahatma Gandhi
LoveNote. . . Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past. - Alexa Young
Just to contrast the above opinions, let me quote Schopenhauer: “To forgive and to forget is an equivalent of throwing out all your hard acquired experiences down the drain”.
Those people are stark raving mad! In other words, according to those “good guys” full of heart, there is no limit to forgiveness.
It is noble to forgive and most of us want to be generous and show our heart (at least theoretically). But my feeling is that most of those who get on the bandwagon of forgiveness do not understand that to forgive does not consist in pronouncing empty words. There is much more to it, because in English one says: acts speak louder than words. Everybody knows about it. Have a look at the same proverb in other languages with literal translations.
ES Del dicho al hecho va un trecho
... hay /va un gran trecho / mucho trecho
El movimiento se muestra andando
PT De dizer ao fazer há muita coisa a ver.
"From say (inf) to-the do (inf) are many things to see"
Do dito ao feito vai um grande eito
"From-the said to-the done goes (=there is) a great row-of-things"
Dizer é uma coisa e fazer é outra. "Say is one thing and do is another"
DE Es ist leicht gesagt, aber langsam getan."It is easy said but slowly done"
SE Från det sagda till det gjorda är vägen lång
"From-the said to-the done is way-the long"
PL ?atwo powiedzie?, ale trudno zrobi?. "Easy to say, but difficult to do"
RU Ne ver' slovam, a ver' delam "Don't believe words, but believe acts"
Ot slov da dela daleko "From words to act long [way]"
To forgive is to express sympathy and compassion. But this kind of forgiveness has a pure egoistic purpose. And in many cases those who “forgive” send the offenders packing. What kind of forgiveness is it? It has nothing to do what B.Peterson has said above.
Alexander Pope once said: "To err is human; to forgive, Divine." If to forgive is Divine, let’s leave it to God then.
UK Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's
PT Dar a César o que é de César. "Give to Caesar that is Ceasar's"
ES Dad a Diós lo que es de Diós e a César lo que es de César.
DE Dem Kaiser geben, was des Kaisers ist "The Ceasar (Dat) give, what Ceasar's is"
Jedem das Seine "Everyone (Dat) what-belongs-to-him"
SE Ge kejsaren vad kejsaren tillhör "Give Ceasar-the what Ceasar-the belongs"
PL Oddaj cesarzowi to co cesarskie, a Bogu to co boskie.
"Give-back Ceasar (Dat) that what [is] Ceasar's, and God (Dat) that what [is] God's"
RU Cezar'u - cezarevo "Ceasar (Dat) [what is] Ceasar's"
How easy and comfy it is to give opinions or advice especially if it does not involve the advisor. Never trouble troubles till trouble troubles you. But I think one must make an effort to empathise with the person concerned if one wants to forgive.
As the problem crosses the national borders, I dedicated some time to read stories from Sweden, Poland and Portugal this time. Obviously reporting is not precise because something will be unintentionally missing, but as there is no other way, let me mention some cases.
A woman was left by her husband when the kid was 5 years old. Ten years later she falls in love with a man. They live a deep requited love. The man is divorced and has no children. They agree to enlarge the family. She is 41 and gets pregnant. But her passed experience makes her have an abortion although her new partner tells her clearly that if she decides on abortion, he will abandon her. She is between the hammer and the anvil until the last moment she hesitates but she does what she has decided. Her partner abandons her and she is devastated. They manage to meet but just to shed tears together. She knows she has harmed him and feels pricks of conscience and begs him repeatedly for forgiveness by phoning him several times. He is not able to forgive her. She has lost not only her baby but also her future life that looked promising. Is it possible for him to forgive her?
How about complicating the context? He dies or commits suicide. Now as the only person who might have forgiven her is dead, can she forgive herself?
Let’s see the same situation but the only difference is that she does not feel guilty at all but knows that he suffers. She is far from begging him for forgiveness. Should she be forgiven?
Can we forgive a person who abused our children? Especially when the consequences are still evident: incurable psychological problems that they will have to “bear and grin it” to carry on living.
Another story: a man in a relationship with kids felt some weakness and betrayed his wife who learnt that through insisting phone calls from his lover, who bent over backwards to make the woman divorce her husband. Even the adolescent kids learnt about the situation. She eventually forgave his husband and the story would be a trivial one if the situation did not grow more complex: the lover got pregnant by the man’s brother and became an extended family member, which in Portugal means a family member. Should the betrayed woman forgive also her husband’s sister-in-law?
And finally what about the reoccurrences of the events? I would love some of those mentors or “good guys” to step into the constantly battered women’ or maltreated or molested children’s shoes by their partners/fathers. Would they be so generous and so eloquent giving us lectures how we should respond to such malpractices? Let them have such experience (but not a single event, but an ordeal during 5 or 10 years). So once they have lived such an ordeal they will stop talking nonsense. Those advisors most probably have never been really hurt.
I would not be honest if I bit my tongue now. Seligman (2002:79) tells us a really unbelievable and breath-taking story that happened in America in the late 90s. Here it goes.
“When Dr Worthington [the psychologist] arrived in Knoxville, he found that his aged mother had been beaten to death with a crowbar and a baseball bat. She was raped with a wine bottle and her house was trashed. [her house was burgled at night when she was at home]. His successful struggle to forgive would be an inspiration coming from any quarter. Coming from a leading investigator of forgiveness, it dwells in the high country of moral teaching, and I recommend it to any of my readers who want to forgive but cannot”.
Worthington describes a long process that he calls REACH. R stands for “recall” the hurt in an objective way without thinking of the wrong-doers as evil and visualize the scene even without wallowing in self-pity. E means “empathize” seeing the situation from the transgressor’s point of view. A means “altruistic gift” of forgiveness to feel better. “But we do not give this gift out of self-interests. Rather we give it because it is for the trespasser’s own good. Tell yourself you can rise above hurt and vengeance. If you give the gift grudgingly, however, it will not set you free”. C stands for “commit” yourself to forgive publicly. H means “hold” onto forgiveness in spite of recurring memories.
We should ask: how many people like Dr.Worthington are there in this world? Isn’t he one of few exceptions? I am more inclined to the Peterson’s and Enright’s definition of forgiveness. But Worthington’s idea beat them by a mile.
All this I have written so far may suggest that I am utterly against forgiveness. On the contrary, I am for forgiveness, but to forgive should never embrace all the cases. There are decent limits for granting forgiveness, Ithink, may not be transgressed. Besides, when we decide to forgive, we must have clear signs that the offender feels that he has harmed us so that we can have some expectations that they will not replicate their act(s). If those signs are absent, there is no point of forgiving. Apart from that I am against forgiveness if it is, as almost all psychologists agree, not for the offender but for my own sake so that I could live at ease. This is a very egoistic view that I don’t accept. Forgiveness has its sense if there is a sort of rapport between the harmed person and the offender.
Only what is lacking nowadays is to abolish courts of law. What do we need them for? A bloody murderer should be forgiven so that he can commit another crime. Any law-breaker, child molester should get away with their offences just to encourage others to step down to the world of offence and crime. Is that what those “good guys” want?
In general terms there are minor cases, serious and very serious cases. On a personal level, the most emphasized problem in human relations is a betrayal. I would have thought that even a betrayal could fall into any of these three categories, although the act of betrayal in itself is the same, the circumstances are different and must be taken into account.
On a Portuguese site I have found this anonymous, who has written this and in my translation it sounds the following:
"You can forgive the woman who you love even if she has betrayed you; the one you don’t love, you should not forgive even too salty soup”.
Let me finish with forgiveness concerning personal relations quoting a joke:
A man is complaining to his wife because she is rubbing it in again.
-Sure, I have forgiven them and also forgotten them – replied his wife – But I want to be sure that you will not forget that I have forgiven you and forgotten all about it.
To finish with, I am only going to mention the crimes against Humanity. Should they be pardoned? Can we, who have not suffered, pardon those crimes? Whom should we pardon? Stalin or Hitler or both? If so, what would mean such a pardon?
3 J.Gray (1998:77) “Starting Over”, Vermilion, London
4 Larry James: “Forgiveness… What is it for?” http://www.celebrateintimacy.com/forgive.html
5 Copyright © 2000 - Larry James. Adapted from the book, "How to Really Love the One You're With."
Is it possible to forgive? (Lawrence)
Forgiveness is a very powerful emotion. And I call it an emotion because it affects our beliefs, feelings, sentiments and most important of all, our behaviour. Indeed I would argue that forgiveness is about behaviour. We cannot be forgiven if our victims do not change his or her behaviour towards us. Mainly not to seek retribution for the wrong and harm we did them. This of course does not mean they have to be our friends nor does it affect any legal implications.
Likewise, the wrong doer is expected to show some form of contrition or remorse for his or her actions. Although contrition is not a necessary condition for forgiveness, it is a sufficient condition to seek forgiveness. So whether one is a victim or a perpetrator of a wrong or harm one must show some outwardly demonstration of one’s feelings for their to be forgiveness. Therefore, much as we might dislike behaviourism, we have very few options but to follow the saying: actions speak louder than words.
It would be reasonable to assume that the anatomy of forgiveness involves the following parts: a wrong done and a wrong doer, harm done to a victim, an intentional action to do harm, a victim’s free intentional decision to forgive, maybe a wrong doer’s feeling of remorse (and-or guilt feelings) and finally a public manifestation of forgiveness given and maybe received. The last condition does not imply that if one is forgiven one accepts that one is, has to or ought to be forgiven. Furthermore, we can consider feeling of remorse by the wrong doer as an optional extra: nice to have but not necessary to have.
So what philosophical questions and issues can we identify from all this? I will start with the question, what are the implications of forgiveness on the nature and status of the wrong and-or harm done? We can reasonably assume that just because we forgive someone we are not saying that what they did was not harmful nor wrong. Nor are we saying that we will always forgive this type of harm or wrong done. If we accept that certain types of “wrong” or “harm” are always forgiven then we would indirectly establish that this type of harm (whatever that maybe) to be the norm. Also forgiving someone does not mean that we accept the wrong doer will do the same harm or wrong in the future. It follows, in my opinion, therefore, that forgiveness is not about wrong or harm, but rather about human relationships.
It seems to me that forgiveness becomes an issue not because of the nature of the harm or wrong done, but because one agent infringes on the accepted relationship between them and an other agent or group of agents. In other words, it is not that we seek forgiveness because we damaged our friend’s car, but because we infringed and damaged the relationship of trust and duty of care towards our friend and his property.
There are many things that people can do that causes us harm and wrong but which do not elicit a request for forgiveness nor consideration to forgive. For example, delayed flights or lost luggage are wrongs and harm done to passengers but in many cases an apology and an explanation is all that is required and in others full compensation is necessary. The issue of forgiveness does not arise here. Compare this with a plane that crashes because of bad maintenance. At the centre of this argument is the question of intention. Most reasonable people would have no problem distinguishing between accidents and intentionally not performing the necessary maintenance on a plane.
Therefore, is it possible to forgive someone? Part of the answer depends on the intentions of the wrong doer. As rational agents we ascribe moral responsibility to others and ourselves because we assume that wrong doers are acting freely and intentionally. Until, that is, we have evidence to the contrary. And although I am using quasi legal terminology, I do not intend a legal meaning here. A badly maintained plane is not the same as a airplane that fails because of unforeseen structural limits.
But what does it mean to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness? I am not asking what does forgive means. I am interested in the implications and functions of forgiveness.
I have already argued that forgiveness does not affect the wrong or harm done but rather the people involved. One of the clear cut implications of this is that forgiveness is an attempt to restore relationships. We seek our parent’s forgiveness because we want our parents to love us again. We seek our friend’s forgiveness because we value our relationship. But I also want to argue that whether we forgive someone or not depends on how close our relationship is with the wrong doer or group of wrong doers.
For example, if we do wrong against a relative or a friend we feel more compelled to ask for forgiveness than someone we have no causal relationship. How many times has one of the tin pot dictators asked you for forgiveness for murdering his or her people? By causal relationship I mean that there is a link between two agents and that this link is established within a context. A relative in the context of the family, a manager in the context of work, a politician in the context of one’s country and maybe even a despot in a foreign land in the context of humanity; within a context but of course contexts are endless. Thus if there is a causal link, the issue of forgiveness becomes more relevant than if there isn’t one.
Another big issue about forgiveness is that of subjectivity. Of course, this should not come as a surprise because I have already argued that forgiveness is an emotion and involves intentionality.
The wrong done and the harm done must first off all be perceived by the victim as a harm or a wrong done to them. If we don’t perceive someone’s actions as a wrong doing we usually don’t consider the option of forgiving them, there is nothing to forgive. For example if our boss does not visit us in hospital and we don’t expect him or her to do so we don’t see a request for forgiveness as relevant. The same applies for the wrong doer.
Of course, all this does not mean that others must have the same opinion as we do, and nor does it mean that in many cases the opinion of others does not matter. It’s just the nature of emotions, and forgiveness, which, I submit, involves an awareness of wrong and harm by all the parties involved.
But why should we bother or care to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness? I have already said that one of the reasons is that we want to mend broken relationships. But the harm done cannot be reversed or changed, so why bother?
This issue seems to be very important in the context of religions and most religions (see Wikipedia: Forgiveness) do emphasise the element of mending relationships. I do not wish to enter into an investigation on religions, but I do want to mention as aspect about the three religions that helped to establish western culture: (in chronological order) Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
It is curious and I won’t put it more than that, that Judaism involves forgiveness this way: (from the Wikipedia) Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, summarized: "it is not that God forgives, while human beings do not. To the contrary, we believe that just as only God can forgive sins against God, so only human beings can forgive sins against human beings." However, the two other religions clearly establish, in some form or other, God’s power to forgive independent of the human victim’s wishes. Of course this is just the gist and not the details of the position of these respective religions. What I find interesting about these religions is not their theological position, but rather the evolutionary process of their beliefs.
At least for me it is obvious that Judaism’s position on forgiveness is quite logical and reasonable, but equally obvious is that this position is not very practical. Forgiveness is a big thing and not everyone can rise to the occasion. And a society bearing grudges does not make an ideal scenario for progress and cooperation.
However, the evolutionary step of giving God the power to forgive the wrong and harm done between two human agents, as Islam and Christianity hold, is equally problematic. No doubt Islam and Christianity do solve the problem of practicality by invoking God; a solution no less astute than quantum physicists invoking the value of the square root of minus one. But it seems to me that the God solution is done at the expense of the victims of the wrong and harm done. You will remember, I argued that it was necessary for the victim to feel wronged and for the victim to intentionally forgive if there is any forgiving to be had. So how does ignoring the victims create a better and just society?
It is this evolutionary process, and not the theological meaning, that provides evidence that forgiveness is a subjective matter and a matter for human beings to deal with. This does not solve any problems for us, but at least I have tried to pin down the problem of forgiveness to the ground, otherwise also known as the Earth.
While there are many things we can do to make forgiveness possible, we still have to establish whether we can make subjectivity impossible. In a way what I am proposing is to solve a subjective problem with an objective solution; the same way Islam and Christianity tried to do. In a way forgiveness leads us directly to three of the most important questions of classical philosophy. In true Platonic spirit, by trying to move forgiveness from a human problem to an objective solution (eg. The God solution) we are trying to discover some form of gold standard or the equivalent of Plato’s forms.
The second question is the objectivity-subjectivity problem. If we had some objective criteria to determine when and when not to forgive someone we would solve the problem of some people not forgiving others when they ought to. If we allow the subjective opinion of victims to determine whether to forgive someone or not this would equally lead to a society with its share of injustice and impracticality, as I have argued.
Finally, even Hume’s problem of deriving an “ought to an is” raises its head with forgiveness. It is true that the emotional and subjective aspects of forgiveness makes forgiveness very difficult to resolve. But it is also true that we are pressed to resolve this problem because we value the healing and fixing powers of forgiveness. Which explains why many societies seek to find a practical solution to a difficult problem including ourselves with parents and friends. But ethical systems have to establish what is right and wrong, harm and benefit, and they have to do so in absolute terms; an ethical systems does not function on shifting sands. This does not mean, however, that right and wrong do not come in degrees, only that harm is always harm and wrong is always wrong. And here is where Hume’s problem becomes relevant: while it is possible to forgive, ought we to do so?
from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is it possible to forgive? + News