moral psychology: forgiveness Essays

Submitted By acos9028
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Pages: 9

What is involved in forgiveness? When, if ever, is forgiveness appropriate? Can one be to blame for forgiving? Discuss with reference to the case of Eva Kor.

The concept of forgiveness is extremely complex and personal. It is a human emotion in my opinion that most individuals wish to desire but find it hard to comprehend and as a result difficult to muster. I believe that forgiveness mainly revolves around the Victim, where individuals choose forgiveness to bring peace of mind and peace of soul. This action to in turn provides the Perpetrator which forgiveness, “and forgiveness centrally involves wiping the slate clean without changing beliefs about the culpable wrongdoing”. Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor, declares her forgiveness to Dr Mengaele and the Nazis for her own personal and psychological benefits. This case illustrates my point of forgiveness being complex and personal, as this historical event is extremely complex in nature and carries with it immense personal aspects. In the case of Eva Kor, she and her twin sister were so-called human guinea pig’s to Dr Mengele’s twin experiments at Auschwitz. Eva’s forgiveness towards Dr Mengele and the Nazis provoked outrage from other Holocaust survivors.

In a standard case of forgiveness there is a Victim and a Perpetrator. For forgiveness to occur the Victim has to forgive the Perpetrator for a particular action(s) in which the Perpetrator has wronged the Victim. In some cases and situations the Victim may have passed away therefore family and friends may then have the grounds to forgive the Perpetrator. Forgiveness involves a personal aspect, “it is essentially personal: granted to the Perpetrator by the Victim” (Alias, 2008:37) and in my opinion is one of the hardest human emotions and acts to comprehend and as a result perform.

There are conflicts over whether forgiveness constitutes as just an act that the Victim performs or if it is more of a mental state. Therefore if it is an act must it be done publicly for there to be proof and value to the act; conversely if we can forgive those who are no longer part of our lives for instance the dead then forgiveness is merely just a mental state?

As forgiveness involves an algorithm where V must forgive P only when P has wronged V, forgiveness is consequently appropriate when P has wronged V. However due to the nature of forgiveness being highly personal it is then V’s decision to instigate forgiveness as they must decide on a catalyst in which P acts where forgiveness is thus necessary; “to regard it as wrong and as attributed to the perpetrator in the way that is necessary for there to be something to forgive” (Allias, 2008:33).

Blame is where we assign responsibility for a fault or wrong and in the nature of forgiveness blame is directed at the perpetrator. In forgiving we either (1) come to think that the person is no longer culpable or to blame, this we call ‘the no longer culpable view’ or we (2) still think they are to blame, but choose to not hold it against them and this is ‘the still culpable view’. However with ‘the no longer culpable view’ if we now think them as no longer to blame, what is there then to forgive, it is furthermore not that we see then no longer to blame that this in turn causes us to forgive them. As a result forgiving then just is thinking them as no longer being to blame. Following from this ‘the still culpable view’ is where we continue to see then as blameworthy, if so then why forgive them, for this would be seen as irrational. From such notions a third possibility is developed where only the victims of the wrong can forgive – because only they, through their act of forgiveness can free the perpetrator from blameworthiness in their (the victims) own eyes.

Lucy Alias (2008) states that forgiveness cannot be demanded or required of someone. It can be legitimately given even where there has been no repentance or atonement from the offender, thus forgiveness is ‘up to you’, a