Two models of forgiveness

Let me start off by acknowledging that some of our readers have thought more deeply about forgiveness than I have. And everyone who wants to should join in and comment.

The first form of forgiveness seems principally or even entirely internal to the victim. It may result in beneficent action toward a transgressor, but the transformation need only be in the victim.

The second comes from an article asking about victims of sexual assault and forgiveness of the transgressors. What is given is the first step of three in a standard conception of forgiveness from Judaism. Here the change starts with a change in the transgressor.

(1) Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Wikipedia


(2) From the NY Times:

Judaism offers a prescription for restorative rather than punitive justice that I think can provide a template for all of us — not just Jews — in determining what it should take to readmit transgressors into public life.
In Judaism, a religion that prizes deeds over faith, atonement is not an easy process. And why should it be? It is designed to effect nothing less than personal transformation. This is why the Hebrew word for “atonement” is “teshuva,” or return — as in a return to your higher self, a return to your essential goodness, a return to recognizing your own dignity and the dignity of others.
The repentance process begins with an “accounting of the soul” (heshbon ha’nefesh), an examination of how one has failed or fallen short. God can forgive sins against God, but notably, sins between people can be forgiven only by the aggrieved.

I’m concerned about the first. I think there are a number of negative feelings one can have toward or about others: envy, jealousy, anger or even hatred. Taking oneself through the transformation of (1) may make one a better person to be around, but if it involves letting the transgressor off the hook, it may be less than a good thing. It does not seem right to let racists off the hook, for example.

I remained puzzled by exhortations to foregive. Perhaps by self-transformation the transgressor can re-earn the right to one’s regard. But in other cases? What do you think?

Happy holidays! In Memory of Andy Kaufman

For the holidays I searched for BBC interludes, the small bits of completely inconsequential sequences that would be put on to fill a gap. We once had one of a dear kitten, Snowy, on, but I couldn’t find it. So instead I’ve put on a series of films about London Transport in the 1950’s. The films automatically transition from one to another.

The first film is rather horrifying. It is full of false declarative sentences that I think children can be deluged with. E.g., “you will enjoy our school. You will find our students never bully other students.”  What you are in fact hearing is an echo of the Empire.   Watching it is good practice if you have to listen to relatives, or friends of relatives, on various political or moral topics. I am hoping no one will be offended by the “Africans love children” remark.

The second in the collection is visually utterly and completely boring unless you are keen on 1950’s British automobiles. Sitting through it is good practice for enduring conversations about how to cook turkeys or trim Brussel sprouts.

(The transfer to the second film isn’t always automatic. It seems less boring the second time around, if one lets oneself realize that one is catching glimpses of lives and homes which are otherwise completely hidden. It is here.)

The third one promised to be worst of all, so I didn’t watch much. [later note: the third might be worth a look. It’s here. The visual experience of inconsequential bits of the past are oddly engrossing. For a very few mintues.]


Could we please discuss this?

A column in the NT Times raises an issue I’d love to get more advice on.

As you may know, Matt Damon has said that with sexual harassment there are degress of seriousness and guilt. A pat the bum is not as serious as rape. Minnie Driver and many others disagree. There should be zero tolerance for any treatment of women’s bodies as available sexual objects to be used.

The Times’ column says:

All societies make necessary moral distinctions between high crimes and misdemeanors, mortal and lesser sins. A murderer is worse than a thief. A drug dealer is worse than a user. And so on. Gillibrand, Driver and others want to blur such distinctions, on the theory that we need a zero-tolerance approach. That may sound admirable, but it’s legally unworkable and, in many cases, simply unjust.

It’s also destructive, above all to the credibility of the #MeToo movement. Social movements rarely succeed if they violate our gut sense of decency and moral proportion. Insofar as #MeToo has made an example of a Harvey Weinstein or a Matt Lauer, most Americans — including, I’d bet, most men — have been on its side.

But zero tolerance is going to kill thesupport.

So what do you think? That is, how do you separate these competing claims into right and wrong?

FPQ Issue 3.4 published

The ontology of pregnancy, resisting body-oppression, credibility and sexual assault, a map of the arrow of care, utilitarianism as good for women, and focus groups on women’s under-representation in philosophy, all await you at the new issue of Feminist Philosophy Quarterly!

Current Issue: Volume 3, Issue 4 (2017)


Audrey S. Yap, “Credibility Excess and the Social Imaginary in Cases of Sexual Assault”

Maja Sidzinska, “Not One, Not Two: Toward an Ontology of Pregnancy”

Sherri Irvin, “Resisting Body Oppression: An Aesthetic Approach”

Claire A. Lockard, Helen Meskhidze, Sean Wilson, Nim Batchelor, Stephen Bloch-Schulman, and Ann J. Cahill, “Using Focus Groups to Explore the Underrepresentation of Female-Identified Undergraduate Students in Philosophy”

Asha L. Bhandary, “The Arrow of Care Map: Abstract Care in Ideal Theory”

H. E. Baber, “Is Utilitarianism Bad for Women?”

Black Women** and the “#me too” movement

Writings on the recent and welcome focus on women’s pervasive experience of harassment too often tend to proceed as if white women and women of color are just the same in this respect.  I’m not in a position to speak for women of color, but I can mention some resources that arguably we should all read.  I don’t want to claim they are all completely true, but they are worth knowing about.

(**The authors of the remarks below are all black, but women of color more generally may find themselves left out or disadvantaged in the #me too movement.  In fact, factors other than ethnicity may create problems for other groups of women, such as disabled women.)

Here are three resources:

1. Reporting the neighborhood harassers: A black woman has some reason not to do this.  Involving the police with the neighborhood bad guys can get the latter sucked into a horribly unjust legal system or even get them killed.

2. Learning from the experiences of other women at work:  A black woman may be left out of the white women’s collective knowledge about harassers.

3.  Actress and producer Gabrielle Union argues that white women benefit the most from the recent attention.  She says, “I think the floodgates have opened for White women,” Union says. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.”



‘Feminism’ is Merriam-Webster dictionary’s word of the year


A leading US dictionary has named “feminism” as its word of 2017 following a surge in online searches.
Merriam-Webster said interest in the term was driven by women’s marches, new TV shows and films on women’s issues and the string of news stories on sexual assault and harassment claims.
The number of people searching for the word was up 70% on 2016, it said.
The dictionary defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes”.
It adds that it is also “organised activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”.