Against Elective Forgiveness

Per Erik Milam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


It is often claimed both that forgiveness is elective and that forgiveness is something that we do for reasons. However, there is a tension between these two central claims about the nature of forgiveness. If forgiving is something one does for reasons, then, at least sometimes, those reasons may generate a requirement to forgive or withhold forgiveness. While not strictly inconsistent with electivity, the idea of required forgiveness strikes some as antithetical to the spirit of the concept. They argue that forgiveness is essentially elective. In this paper, I dispute these arguments. I argue that the intuitive plausibility of the position diminishes upon reflection and that the best arguments fail to explain why reasons to forgive, unlike most other reasons for action, cannot generate requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-584
Number of pages16
JournalEthical theory and moral practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Elective
  • Forgiveness
  • Moral requirement
  • Reasons
  • Blame


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