Veronik Avissar

Veronik  Avissar


Subject: Are we obligated to forgive the people we love?

Supervisor: Dr. Sharon Krishek

Abstract: I am writing my thesis on a question that has been bothering me for quite some time, the question whether or not we are obligated to forgive the people we love? or, to put it somewhat differently, can we truly love someone and at the same time hold a negative attitude towards that person, believing that he wronged us?

 This is a complex question, which requires clarifying the basic terms with which it is concerns, namely forgiveness and love. In addition, it is also not clear what kind of obligation is in question. While every person on the street can understand the question asked, since it concerns two of the most basic concepts of human life, a closer look would reveal that it is far from easy to precisely define them.

 Given the complexity and width of the topic, I shall begin my discussion from the question whether or not we are ever obligated to forgive, regardless of our attitude towards the offender. Since our initial intuition is that an obligation to forgive belongs to the moral sphere, the first step would be ascertaining whether or not there could be a moral obligation to forgive.

 After concluding, through the discussion of the secondary literature on the subject, that in the moral sphere forgiveness is always supererogatory and never an obligation; I turn to a discussion of forgiveness as a religious duty, asking if forgiveness can be a moral prerogative and a religious duty. In this discussion I shall turn to Kierkegaard's conception of forgiveness, as presented in "Works of Love". His view is a view that binds forgiveness and love together.

 Yet deferring to Kierkegaard's view would entail accepting his religious framework, which many of us have trouble accepting. Trying to avoid an obligation to a religious-Christian framework, I shall check other models of love, in an attempt to ascertain whether there could be an obligation to forgive loved ones that is not of a religious nature. This inquiry will be based on the assumption that love does not necessarily belong to the moral domain. This will be the final step, after which I hope to offer a comprehensive answer to the question.