Forgiveness in a Political Context: The Challenge and the Potential
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Philosophy & Social Criticism
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In this article I examine the challenging question concerning whether communal forgiveness is possible. In order to show that it is in principle possible I articulate and then respond to two of the most powerful objections to communal forgiveness that have been formulated to date, namely: (1) the argument that only victims can forgive; and (2) the argument that forgiveness is unconditional and thus outside the scope of such things as communal or political deliberation.
I argue that communal forgiveness is a process of transformation that requires at the practical level an institutional framework in which a representative of a community can initiate the process of forgiveness, like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu did in South Africa. Because forgiveness is a process of transformation, it cannot be assessed at the level of acts or commitments alone, but is a wager on the future that will indeed show whether the communities involved have accepted the transformation.