International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 34, Issue 2, Fall 2020

Patrick Lenta
Pages 201-214

Forgiving and Forbearing Punishment

Most philosophers who have expressed a view about whether forgiveness is compatible with forgivers’ continuing to punish, or support the punishment of, people who have wronged them hold that forgiveness is compatible with punishing or favouring punishment of wrongdoers. I argue that whether forgiveness entails forbearing punishment depends on which of two senses of forgiveness is operative. On the first, sentiment-based sense of forgiveness as consisting essentially in a change of heart on the part of a victim, a victim can, I submit, forgive while continuing to punish or to support the punishment of a person who has wronged her. On the second sense of forgiveness as consisting in debt remission whether or not accompanied by a change of heart, the state’s remission of the entirety of criminal offenders’ punishment qualifies as forgiveness and, moreover, the state could not forgive offenders in this sense while continuing to punish them.