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Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration Paperback – September 3, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


"Rarely has a philosopher offered his fervent students and readers such depth, knowledge and sensitivity as Charles Griswold has done in this volume that deals with one of the most urgent topics facing humankind today."
-- Elie Wiesel

"Griswold's arguments are deep, far-reaching and all the more effective for the many interesting examples, drawn from recent events and biographical accounts. He sets a paradigm before us, in which one person injures another, seeks forgiveness and then receives it...Griswold tells us much about forgiveness, about the mental processes involved in it, and the way in which interpersonal relations are shaped by it."
--Roger Scruton, Times Literary Supplement

"This carefully reasoned, highly insightful and beautifully written book is essential reading for anyone interested in forgiveness, apology and reconciliation, in the private or public sphere. Accessible to the general reader and practical politician as well as to scholars, it will undoubtedly set the parameters of debate on forgiveness and apology for years to come."
-Geoffrey Scarre, Durham University, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration is a masterful treatment of a central issue in moral philosophy. Well-written, penetrating, and rich in details, this book discusses a number of related topics including interpersonal forgiveness, political apology, pardon, and civic is clear that this book is a remarkable achievement that will undoubtedly shape, in enormously beneficial ways, future philosophical debates on the topic of forgiveness."
--Ernesto V. Garcia, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"In the prologue to this carefully researched study of forgiveness, Griswold addresses his readers by asking who among us has not longed to be forgiven, struggled to forgive; then points to the psychological, political, and moral centrality of the concept of revenge for his analysis...Griswold sets forth six criteria for such forgiveness, discussing them in the context of related concepts such as economic forgiveness, the pardoning of debts, political and judicial pardon, and political apology...Inviting debate through its wide-ranging but probing treatment of these issues, the book contributes, as its subtitle indicates, to philosophical explanations in the tradition of Robert Nozick."
Sissela Bok, Common Knowledge

"One of the lessons of modernity is that there is no consolation in the human condition, unless perhaps it consists in somehow reconciling ourselves to evils so sublimely absurd that at each new moment they test our capacities for acceptance. In such a world, an understanding of forgiveness - the concept of it, the varieties, its human sources and limits - is more central to life than ever before. Charles Griswold's clearheaded and perceptive new book explores forgiveness both analytically and realistically, helping us toward all these forms of understanding."
--Allen Wood, Stanford University

"Forgiveness by Charles Griswold is a philosopher's attempt to hone the complexity of interpersonal and political forgiveness to make them accessible. The book honors sources both historical and current, and while it is not primarily religious nor psychological it includes both as it integrates an enormous range of material with deep intelligence and insight. The book is well referenced, quite readable and taught me things about forgiveness I did not know."
--Frederic Luskin, PH.D Director Stanford Forgiveness Projects, Author of Forgive for Good, Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project (

"The book refers to virtually every recent writer on the topic [of forgiveness], which provides the reader with a guide to the literature...the writing is clear, and the topic is deeply important...Highly recommended."
-R.T. Lee, Trinity College, Choice

"Charles Griswold's Forgiveness is a truly wonderful book, which not only wisely and eloquently treats a significant feature of the moral life and moral psychology, but also sheds unexpected light on moral theory and the history of ethics. The book also includes a fascinating discussion of the role of apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation in political life during the last fifty years."
--Stephen Darwall, University of Michigan

"This in depth study of a topical issue will be accessible and of great interest to public library patrons as well as scholars, and it is highly recommended for both."
--Leon H. Brody, Falls Church, VA

"[A] carefully researched study of forgiveness."

Book Description

Charles Griswold has written the first comprehensive philosophical book on forgiveness in both its interpersonal and political contexts, as well as its relation to reconciliation. Having examined the place of forgiveness in ancient philosophy and in modern thought, he discusses what forgiveness is, what conditions the parties to it must meet, its relation to revenge and hatred, when it is permissible and whether it is obligatory, and why it is a virtue.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521703514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521703512
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Omelianchuk on May 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Griswold's project is primarily an analysis of forgiveness from a purely secular standpoint. Though he acknowledges religious influence, he seeks to keep his terms precisely defined for a non-religious paradigm that not only is relevant to private and personal matters, but to public and political as well. The book is both stimulating and insightful in that it offers much wisdom in the way of how interpersonal relationships can be restored, and it offers a rigorous logical construction of the dynamics of apology in both public and private affairs.

Essential to Griswold's argument is that forgiveness is a virtue expressed within a moral community. Such a community is interdependent; it is not reducible to the individual and his or her behavior. The consequences of this mean that "the offender depends on the victim in order to be forgiven, and the victim depends on the offender in order to forgive" (pg. 49). With this supposition in mind, Griswold lays out six conditions for the wrongdoer to meet in order to obtain true contrition: 1) responsibility, the offender takes the moral blame for their actions; 2) repudiation, the offender disavows the wrongful deeds; 3) regret, the offender must show remorse for the aberrant actions; 4) reform, the offender must commit to being a different person and express that it is unacceptable to repeat the offense; 5) Reimagination, the offender shows an understanding of how the injured party feels; and 6) retelling, the offender is able to recount the events that lead the wrongdoer to do wrong without making excuse or minimizing the issues relevant to the wronged (pgs. 49-51). If these conditions are sufficiently met one may warrant forgiveness.

In order to forgive the wronged must also meet certain conditions.
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Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration
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