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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Staff

Publication details for Professor Geoffrey Scarre

Scarre, Geoffrey (2016). Forgiveness and Identification. Philosophia 44(4): 1021-1028.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Philosophical discussion of forgiveness has mainly focused on cases in which victims and offenders are known to each other. But it commonly happens that a victim brings an offender under a definite description (e.g. ‘the boy who kicked his football through my window’) but does not know to which individual this applies. I explore some of the conceptual and moral issues raised by the phenomenon of forgiveness in circumstances in which identification is incomplete, tentative or even mistaken. Among the conclusions reached are that correct and precise identification of the offending individual is not essential for forgiveness to take place; that an offender can, under certain strict conditions, be said to be forgiven by proxy where the victim has misidentified the offender and ‘forgiven’ the wrong person; and that proxy forgiveness of this sort is not subject to the objections commonly levelled against ‘proxy’ or ‘third-party forgiveness.’