Philosophy and Theology

Volume 26, Issue 1, 2014

Stuart Jesson
Pages 131-150

On the Ambiguity of Forgiveness

This article highlights some of the difficulties that accompany any attempt to articulate an understanding of forgiveness that is at once coherent, just and desirable. Through a close examination of Charles Griswold’s book Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration, I suggest that there are good reasons to think that forgiveness is intrinsically ambiguous, both conceptually and morally. I argue that there is an underlying tension between the concerns that shape the definition, and those that are invoked when affirming the good of forgiveness. Using Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, I then provide some commentary concerning this ambiguity and make some brief suggestions about how this ambiguity might be theologically fruitful.