Volume 82, 2008
Forgiveness, Anger, and Virtue in an Aristotelean Perspective
Aristotle figures significantly in the recent boom of literature on forgiveness, particularly accounts wishing to construe forgiveness as a virtue. While his definition of anger is often invoked, he is also a foil for accounts valuing forgiveness more than did Aristotle. I argue through interpretive exegesis of Aristotle’s texts that, while there are definite limits on forgiveness in his thought, so that his notion of forgiveness does not extend as far as in Christian ethics, it does play a significant role in his ethics. Forgiveness is particularly connected with the emotion and dynamic of anger, and my paper examines Aristotle’s discussions of anger, hatred and righteous indignation, indicating how forgiveness fits into these. Finally, I express my suspicions of recent accounts attempting to construe forgiveness itself as a virtue, arguing it is traditionally and more adequately understood as governed by virtues, in particular mildness (praōtēs) as Aristotle articulates it.