International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 35, Issue 1, Spring 2021

John Kleinig
Pages 109-115

Defending Unconditional Forgiveness: A Reply to Brookes

My differences with Derek Brookes reflect an alternative understanding of what forgiveness is intended to achieve, and how it achieves it. I express some skepticism about his account of wrongdoing as an expression of contempt, of wrongdoing posing an ongoing threat, of resentment as a protective shield, and apology/remorse as the only morally acceptable means for removing such a threat. I remain unconvinced that forgiveness in the absence of an apology is likely to evidence condonation or a failure of self-respect. In emphasizing that forgiveness is a morally discretionary gift, I depart from the idea that it must somehow be earned (by apology, etc.) to be morally laudable. Its character as forgiveness is therefore not morally impugned if not made dependent on the wrongdoer’s repentance.