chapter  5
24 Pages

Rights and Duties of Apology

WithAndrew I. Cohen

This chapter features a defense of the claim that apologies can be the target of claim rights and duties. Drawing on a theory of rights as normative constraints that ground directed duties, the chapter sets out how rights apply to moral repair as part of corrective justice. Apologies provide unique repair one might claim for certain forms of relationship damage. Corrective justice may then assign rights and duties regarding apology. By pointing to particular examples of transgressions, the chapter considers how apologies serve some compensatory functions but their main moral function is to provide reparations for the failure to treat another as she was due.

Good persons offer apologies when appropriate. Of course, good persons avoid doing things that might give rise to some need to apologize. However, even the best among us may sometimes transgress others in ways that apologies might begin to repair. Does justice sometimes command such apologies? In this chapter, I argue that justice sometimes does require apology. There can be, and there are, duties of apology whose performance others may claim by right. Not all reasons to apologize are those of justice. However, an inquiry into whether apologies are targets of rights and duties is one about the reach and function of justice, especially corrective justice.