chapter  2
17 Pages

Some Incomplete Accounts of Apologies

WithAndrew I. Cohen

This chapter considers some potential frameworks for theorizing apologies. A suitable framework should offer a guide to identifying, evaluating, and sometimes formulating apologies. We might understand apologies as performative utterances, ways to reconcile, or instances of an ideal. I discuss advantages and drawbacks to each. This chapter dwells at some length on Nick Smith’s recent work on apology, particularly his notion of categorical apology. The chapter argues that Smith’s account is illuminating as far as it goes but inadequate for theorizing many common forms of apologies. The account of apologies as corrective offers shows greater versatility than some leading compelling alternatives.

In this chapter, I consider some leading theoretical frameworks that understand apologies variably in terms of their being (1) performative utterances, (2) successful reconciling devices, or (3) approximations of an ideal form. I note advantages and drawbacks to each approach. Assessing such leading approaches helps to frame how any account of justice might bear on apologies and the comparatively superior analytical power of an account of apologies as corrective offers.