Holding Wrongdoers Responsible
On the Complexities of Blame and Forgiveness
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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 and appropriate 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 forswearing 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 availability of 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 and their relationship with each other, 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
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).