Holding Wrongdoers Responsible : On the Complexities of Blame and Forgiveness book cover
1st Edition

Holding Wrongdoers Responsible
On the Complexities of Blame and Forgiveness

ISBN 9781032139456
Published December 31, 2021 by Routledge
264 Pages

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Book Description

Holding Wrongdoers Responsible contests a number of widely accepted claims about blame and forgiveness that are insufficiently examined in the philosophical literature, and their relationship to each other. These claims are: 

i Anger is the most fitting kind of blame for those who are guilty of wrongdoing.
ii Culpable wrongdoers should be blamed for what they have done.
iii Forgiving consists of renouncing blame and blame feelings, especially angry ones.
iv Forgiving is a kind and compassionate act for which a wrongdoer should be grateful. 

Against (i), the book argues that there are a number of reasons why we should be skeptical about the singular importance given to anger in this connection; against (ii), that blame is just one possible response to wrongdoing and, like other responses, has to be evaluated in relation to its purposes and the available alternatives; against (iii), that the continuation of blame after forgiveness is neither conceptually nor morally ruled out; and against (iv), that the image of forgiveness as benevolent and gift-like belies its dark side. By contesting these claims, the book reveals some of the moral and psychological complexities of these phenomena.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On the Complexities of Blame and Forgiveness

Part I: Blame

1. The Problem with Blame

2. The Hostility Critique

3. Varieties of Blame

4. To Blame or Not to Blame?

5. An Ethics of Blame

6. Forgoing Blame

7. Holding Responsible Without Blame

Part I Conclusion: Taking Stock

Part II: Blame and Forgiveness

8. Blame Before and After Forgiveness

9. Is Blame Renounced by Forgiveness? Some Philosophical Accounts

10. Forgiveness and the Purposes of Blame

11. How Forgiveness Changes Blame

Conclusion: Withdrawing Good Will and Expressing Ill Will

Appendix II: On the Moral Peril of Forgiveness in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Part III: Forgiveness

12. Praising and Debunking Forgiveness

13. The Electivity of Forgiveness

14. The Gratitude-Based Objection

15. Aristotle, Kant and the Problem with Gratitude

16. Nietzsche, Nussbaum and the Problem with Forgiveness

17. An Alternative Moral Psychology of Gratitude and Forgiveness

Conclusion III: The Two Faces of Forgiveness

Appendix II: On Blame and Optimism


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Jeffrey M. Blustein is Professor of Philosophy and Arthur Zitrin Professor of Bioethics, City College, City University of New York. His previously authored books include The Moral Demands of Memory (2008) and Forgiveness and Remembrance: Remembering Wrongdoing in Personal and Public Life (2014).