chapter  3
19 Pages

Apology as Relationship Repair

WithAndrew I. Cohen

This chapter discusses leading accounts of apology as a form of correction for wrongdoing. The chapter surveys potential sources of the directed obligations whose breach apologies might repair. The chapter then focuses on accounts of apologies as forms of relationship repair. When theorizing apologies as responses to relational transgressions, we must take care to specify what sort of relationships are at issue. The relationships are not necessarily interpersonal in an ordinary sense. We best understand apologies as repairing a breach to certain normatively significant relations. The chapter concludes by noting how unqualified appeals to relationship damage are insufficient platforms for theorizing apologies. This sets up theorizing apologies as a response to transgressions against relational moral norms, which later chapters explore.

Relationships might figure in a theory of apology by indicating what wrongdoing damages. Appeals to relationships must, however, grapple with two challenges. First, there is ambiguity about the meaning, scope, and significance of relationships. Second, it is unclear how relationship damage maps on to wrongdoing and what this mapping means for reasons to provide apologies and the reasons such apologies provide.