What We Cannot Do to Each Other: On Forgiveness and Moral Vulnerability
Forgiveness typically becomes an issue when some wrong has been done, when a person intentionally-or at least knowingly-has wronged another.1 It is because of our vulnerability that we sometimes become victims of other peoples’ wrongdoing. If we were all invulnerable, wrongdoing would not be possible and there would be no need to ask for or grant forgiveness. The damage caused by wrongdoing can be of different kinds. As embodied creatures, we can suffer physical damage. Where private property has been institutionalised, we can be proprietors of material goods; as proprietors, we are materially vulnerable. Finally, as creatures with minds, we can suffer psychic damage. We can, for example, be traumatised. The physical or material or psychic damage we suffer does not have to be caused by the intentional wrongdoing of another person. It can be due to natural causes such as, for example, an earthquake. Where such damages have natural causes, it does not make sense for the victim to respond with any feelings of personal resentment, anger, hatred or affective motivational drive for retaliation and revenge-even though the victim may well respond with such an affect nevertheless.2 Only if such damages have been caused by intentional actions of other people, is there not only a victim, but also an offender. Forgiveness typically is an issue between a victim and his offender.