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Third Parties and the Social Scaffolding of Forgiveness


  • Margaret Urban Walker

Professor Margaret Urban Walker, Department of Philosophy, Marquette University, Coughlin Hall 130, P. O. Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881,


It is widely accepted that only the victim of a wrong can forgive that wrong. Several philosophers have recently defended “third-party forgiveness,” the scenario in which A, who is not the victim of a wrong in any sense, forgives B for a wrong B did to C. Focusing on Glen Pettigrove's argument for third-party forgiveness, I will defend the victim's unique standing to forgive, by appealing to the fact that in forgiving, victims must absorb severe and inescapable costs of distinctive kinds, a plight that third parties do not share. There are, nonetheless, significant, even essential, roles played by third parties in making forgiveness possible, reasonable, or valuable for victims of serious wrongs. I take a closer look at the links between victims, wrongdoers, resentment, and forgiveness in showing why the victim alone can forgive.