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APOLOGIZING WITHOUT REGRET

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Abstract

A common belief about the nature of agent regret is that regretting some event E is closely linked to being sorry for the occurrence of E. Or more specifically, that if one is sorry for E then she must regret E. I will call this ‘the sorry-regret hypothesis’. My contention is that one may be sorry for some action but not regret it. I take the rejection of this ‘truism’ to be a positive development. I offer two lines of argument for rejecting the sorry-regret hypothesis. One line of argument is based on counterexamples. The second attacks the validity of a reconstructed argument for the sorry-regret hypothesis. It is desirable to reject the sorry-regret hypothesis since there is a component of regret that many will not wish to be saddled with as a condition of apologizing. To regret an act, one must wish that she had not performed that act. Since a person is the person she is (speaking loosely) because of the actions she has performed, for many actions, if one regrets an action, then she wishes that she were a different person. This is a worrisome consequence.

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