Note: This course offering is cancelled for Summer II 2012. Use for general information only.

Course Description

GLS 592: Apology, Forgiveness, and Moral Repair

Instructor: Matt Waldshclagel

Apologizing and forgiving are central features of the moral dimension of our lives.  Most of us have been raised to recognize when we have done wrong, and to offer an apology to the person we have wronged.  Most of us think it important to be receptive to the apologies of those who wrong us, and to forgive them.  It is the province of ethical reflection to express and evaluate this and other such observations about morality in the vocabulary of moral philosophy. 

This class will examine the nature, justification, and scope of apology and forgiveness.  In so doing, we aim to get a theoretical purchase on the ethical importance of apology and forgiveness.  We will use the resources of moral philosophy to do this, but we will also use other resources – religious literature, psychological research, novels, and film – to more closely examine and reflect upon the role of apology and forgiveness in and on our lives.  

In the course, we will ask (and try to answer) the following questions: Why do we apologize? Just what is an apology, and do all apologies share a similar form?  What makes an apology sincere, and why is this fundamental to a “successful” apology?  Why do we forgive, and are there constraints on whom and the extent to which we forgive?  May we be morally compelled to forgive someone, even though we detest the very thought of pardoning him?  Is it morally responsible to forgive, in the absence of an apology, just so you can “put the past behind you”?    Is there anything that is unforgivable, and if so, what and why?  Provided that there are at least some things that are unforgivable, is revenge ever a justifiable moral response to them?

This course aims to be an interdisciplinary exercise.  No previous familiarity with the topic or with philosophical methodology is expected, though a willingness to entertain new and unorthodox ideas is encouraged.  Method of evaluation and schedule of reading assignments will be provided in the course syllabus. 

Instructor information

Matt Waldschlagel is a faculty member in the Philosophy and Religion Department.  He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Kansas.  His areas of interest include ethics, political philosophy, and the history of philosophy. 

Last Update: June 6, 2012

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