The Charitable Perspective: Forgiveness and Toleration as Supererogatory

Hagit Benbaji, David Heyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


'May one be pardon’ d and retain the offence?’ asks King Claudius in his tormented monologue in Hamlet. Forgiveness appears incompatible with the retention of the offence, both in the sense of enjoying its consequences (Claudius's arrogation of the Queen and the Kingdom of Denmark) and in the sense of the subsistence of the attitude which underlay the offensive act (his cold-heartedness and ambition). There are, however, views which allow for, even admire, an attitude of forgiveness towards people who have ‘retained’ their offense in some way. This idea of forgiveness is harder to justify, since no change (like repentance) has taken place in the agent. We suggest that the concept of toleration can serve as an illuminating clue in such an analysis. The tolerant attitude involves a certain kind of reconciliation with people who not only have done something wrong in the past, but insist on sticking to their objectionable conduct in the present and the future. Tolerance, in other words, is not conditioned by repentance or by commitment to behavioral transformation; it is a kind of unconditional ‘forgiveness’ in advance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-586
Number of pages20
JournalCanadian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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