• The Philosophical Controversy Over Political Forgiveness

A discussion on the implications of promoting political forgiveness

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
McDermott Conference Room
41 Temple Street, Boston


The Philosophy Department presents "The Philosophical Controversy over Political Forgiveness" by Alice MacLachlan, York University - a Pearl Lecture in Philosophy and Public Affairs. 

The question of forgiveness in politics has attained a certain cachet.  Indeed, in the fifty years since Arendt commented on the notable absence of forgiveness in the political tradition, avast and multidisciplinary literature on the politics of apology, reparation, and reconciliation has emerged.  To a novice scouring the relevant literatures, it might appear that only discordant note in this new veritable symphony of writings on political forgiveness has been sounded by philosophers.  There is a more-than-healthy cynicism directed at what many philosophers see as an uncritical promotion of forgiveness, which - they fear- risks distorting and cheapening forgiveness a moral ideal, in the one hand, and ignoring the moral and political values of justice, accountability and the cessation of harmful relationships, on the other.  Are philosophical fears about the dangers of thinking about forgiveness in political terms warranted - or do they perhaps depend in part on conceptual conservatism regarding what exactly political forgiveness might be?

MacLachlan argues that most, if not all, standard objections to political forgiveness emerge from theoretical reliance on a picture of forgiveness she calls the "Emotional Model."  Once we make conceptual space for descriptions of forgiveness in performative and social terms, the concept is more easily adapted to a political account without at least some the risks feared by philosophers. 

Light refreshments will be served.   For more information, please contact neisikov@suffolk.edu.


Back to Events Listing »