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Matthews Memorial Lecture 2019: Miranda Fricker, CUNY Graduate Center

Miranda Fricker

In 2015, the Department of Philosophy established the Gary Matthews Endowment to honor our late colleague, Gareth Matthews. Widely known for his academic work in ancient philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of religion, Gary was also committed to taking philosophy outside the academy. He was a pioneer in teaching philosophy to young children, working with schools around the world. And he put his ethical values into practice as an activist in movements for peace and social justice. The Endowment enables us to bring to campus, biennially, an eminent philosopher whose research honors the memory of Gary’s academic achievements and social engagement. The Matthews Lecturer will give both a public lecture on a philosophical matter of general interest, and a seminar on his or her academic research. 

Talk Title: 'Ambivalence About Forgiveness'
Date/Time: Thursday, April 4, 2019, 4:00 p.m., followed by a reception open to all at 5:30 p.m.
Location: Amherst Room, Campus Center

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 Epistemic Injustice, Fricker argues that in addition to social or political injustices faced by women (and minority groups), there can be epistemic injustices as well. Prof. Fricker has also co-edited The Epistemic Life of Groups: Essays in the Epistemology of Collectives, and The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy.