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Matthews Memorial Lecture 2019: Miranda Fricker, CUNY Graduate Center

Matthews Memorial Lecture: Miranda Fricker

Ambivalence About Forgiveness

Our ideas about forgiveness seem to oscillate between idealization and scepticism. One might think this simply indicates disagreement, or indecision, but I suspect not. I see these different attitudes as representing opposing moments of a collective moral ambivalence about forgiveness that is well grounded, and I aim to show that there is a philosophical angle on forgiveness capable of vindicating both of our opposing perspectives simultaneously. Once we are correctly positioned, we shall see an aspect of forgiveness that recommends precisely this ambivalence. For what will come into view will be certain key psychological mechanisms of moral-epistemic influence—other-addressed and self-addressed mechanisms of moral social construction—that enable forgiveness to function well when it is well-functioning, but which are also intrinsically prone to deterioration into one or another form of bad faith. Thus forgiveness is revealed as necessarily containing seeds of its own corruption, and ambivalence is proved a permanently appropriate attitude. Moreover, where the moral protagonists are relating in the context of asymmetries of social power, the practice of forgiveness is further compromised.

Miranda Fricker is Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center, specializing in moral philosophy, social epistemology and feminist philosophy.  In her influential and groundbreaking 2007 book Epistmeic Injustice, Fricker argues that in additon to social or political injustices faced by women (and minority groups), there can be epistemic injustices as well.  Professor Fricker has also co-edited The Epistemic LIfe of Groups: Essays in the Epistemology of Collectives, and The Cambridge Compainion to Feminism in Philosophy.

About the Matthews Memorial Lecture Series