Philosophy Department hosts its annual spring conference

The Philosophy Department hosted its Annual Spring Conference on April 14 where philosophers from four universities shared their works on the topic of forgiveness.

The conference began with Kate Moran (PHIL) and Jens Timmermann, a professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews, giving a joint presentation on “Forgiveness as Beneficence.” The talk was focused on the fact that forgiveness should be seen as a Kantian imperfect duty; a duty that must be performed but can be performed in different ways. It is supposed to be both moral and practical.

The goal of forgiveness, according to Moran and Timmermann, is to treat the offender as if the offence had not happened, tied to the condition that the offense will not happen again. Moran and Timmermann see forgiveness as a kind of beneficence, being charitable or doing good, towards the other.

Adrienne Martin, an Associate Professor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Claremont McKenna College, gave a talk on the topic of “Forgiveness Without Morals.” Martin opposes the moralization of philosophy: philosophers often assume that forgiveness is a response to moral wrongdoing and that it is a moral achievement of sorts.

She believes that in daily life forgiveness is not an issue of morality, focusing on the example of betrayal. Martin presented an account of amoral trust, betrayal and forgiveness, that focuses on the fact that they have no connection to morality, more on the fact that it is a project of rebuilding the damaged trust in relationship. She concluded with the implications of the differences between amoral and moral forgiveness.

Lucy Allais, a professor of philosophy at the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, and the Henry Allison Chair of the History of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, presented on “Frailty and Forgiveness.”

Allais addressed the paradoxical and puzzling nature of forgiveness. She takes both sides of the paradox and suggests that they bring out something important about a central way forgiveness functions, particularly the fact that it always goes beyond giving people what they are due. It involves a change of heart, and Kant’s account of human frailty is helpful for making sense of the paradox.

The audience was able to ask the presenters questions about their talks and further discuss them during the lunch and banquet which followed the conference. The event was sponsored by the philosophy department.

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