Passmore Lecture

2018 Passmore Lecture

“Ambivalence about forgiveness"

Professor Miranda Fricker

Presidential Professor of Philosophy, Graduate Centre, City University of New York

Abstract: 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.

Biography: Miranda Fricker is the author of Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (OUP 2007) as well as numerous important papers at the intersection of social and political theory, epistemology and feminist philosophy. She served as Director of the Mind Association 2010-2015, and was recently appointed to the position of moral philosopher on the Spoliation Advisory panel, DCMS, taking over the role from Baroness Mary Warnock.  She is an Associate editor of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association and a Fellow of the British Academy.

6 August 2018, 5-7 pm, Centre for China in the World Theatre

Date & time

Mon 06 Aug 2018, 5:00pm to 7:00pm


China in the World Auditorium, Building #188

Event series


School of Philosophy


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