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FORGIVENESS

ruby sparks

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Claim: forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.

Crucially, it can be part of a mixed strategy, and also be adaptive (help to maximise reproductive success).


So what is forgiveness?

I bet it's complicated. First of all, does a pure version ever exist? I think so. I think we can fully and truly forgive. At which point, I am suggesting, when there's a binary choice, retribution is off the table, no longer relevant. There is no point in saying 'retribution would have been the right response', even if it was deemed and agreed that there was an initial wrong, because forgiveness was deemed right instead. Someone might say, 'well I think retribution would have been the right thing and as such there remains an injustice that deserves retribution' but that's just them, and if they were not party to the actions, it is arguably not necessarily morally up to them, except where moral laws in a society dictate retribution and the thing that was deemed wrong is reported to or discovered by the authorities, which is not always the case, since there are very many cases where both the action and the response remain personal and private to the parties directly involved.

I doubt that forgiveness is often pure of itself though, or always freely given. First, I think it's mostly conditional, in one way or another. Second, I think that it will generally only be partial. As such, we may partly forgive and partly feel that there was nonetheless something that deserved retribution.

It has been said, by neuroscience, that forgiveness, as a brain process, acts (literally biochemically) to inhibit retributive urges. That would suggest that we are in the first instance predisposed towards retribution. If that were true (I don't think anyone is certain) then retributivists might then say that retribution is 'the more natural response'. And I might say, so what? It would only be (or only be more often) the natural first response. Forgiveness would still also be a response, and natural.

Oh, perhaps I should offer a definition of forgiveness:

"To forgive is to either not blame or not be angry with someone for something that person has done, and as a result, not punish or want to punish them for that thing."

I'm not saying that is the correct or only definition. Forgiveness is a slippery concept. It seems easier to say what it is not.

In a nutshell I am saying that one thing it is not is retribution. So, I might simply say:

"Forgiveness is an alternative to retribution."

'Absolve' might be a closely-related word. Also, 'pardon' except that in some legal usages that is not quite the same.

Forgiveness might literally require forgetting (there is the phrase, 'forgive and forget') but not the forgetting that the action happened, only perhaps the actual forgetting of the initial urge (if there was one) to punish that might have been associated with the action or the memory of it. Were that not to be completely forgotten, retributivists might be right in saying there could still be a case for a lingering injustice, or at least the sense of it, I think.

For that to happen, it would seem that the bio/electro-chemical processes involved in the forgiveness would have to have fully 'reversed or erased' the initial retributive ones, if they were there. I think that may be a big ask, of a brain. It would involve the latter not being encoded in memory.
 
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T.G.G. Moogly

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Speaking personally I don't know if I've ever forgiven anyone for what I thought was wrong to do or say. I've certainly moved past the event and have had good adult relations with those persons. We talk and interact and do things together, but forgiveness never comes up.

In some of those cases there have been apologies, which certainly helped, but for the most part the experience simply became unimportant. Other more important things came into play which had nothing to do with our collective emotional states. Forgiveness did not matter.
 

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Any fool knows men and women think differently at times, but the biggest difference is this. Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget.

--Robert Jordan
 

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Claim: forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.

Crucially, it can be part of a mixed strategy, and also be adaptive (help to maximise reproductive success).


So what is forgiveness?

I bet it's complicated. First of all, does a pure version ever exist? I think so. I think we can fully and truly forgive. At which point, I am suggesting, when there's a binary choice, retribution is off the table, no longer relevant. There is no point in saying 'retribution would have been the right response', even if it was deemed and agreed that there was an initial wrong, because forgiveness was deemed right instead.
That sounds off to me.

As you say, crucially, forgiveness can be part of a mixed strategy. What makes forgiveness an adaptive strategy is that it lets people break out of cycles of retaliation, where each thinks the other has wronged him. To put it in game-theoretic Prisoner's Dilemma terms, tit-for-tat is an effective strategy that does well in a wide variety of ecosystems, but it's susceptible to a failure mode where X cooperates and Y defects, so then X defects and Y cooperates, and so on, and each perpetually feels aggrieved and justified in punishing the other. But when at least one player sometimes cooperates even though the other just defected, they can switch out of the failure mode into an all-cooperation state that makes them both better off. But if X cooperates again but Y just defects again, forgiveness is not adaptive -- it's just a recipe for X to perpetually suffer while Y perpetually prospers by taking advantage of X.

Forgiveness is an invitation to the other person to reach for a better relationship than what you have. It only works if the other person is amenable to doing his part to maintain a better relationship. You have to be willing to meet each other half way. A famous expert on forgiveness reputedly said "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also". But when Peter asked the same expert how many times he should forgive, "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.". Well, if Peter's brother sins against him seven times, and Peter forgives him seven times, and his brother does it again, then when Peter forgives him the eighth time he'd better expect his brother to keep doing it the next 482 times. He's at a point where it makes sense to say 'retribution would have been the right response'. When people are forgiven they need to read into it a warning label about what will happen if they don't reform.

Jesus had it right the first time. You only have two cheeks.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Claim: forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.
Suppose I were to reply, hypothetically: "You are mistaken, it is not the case that forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances."

Would my reply be incorrect?
 

ruby sparks

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ruby sparks said:
Claim: forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.
Suppose I were to reply, hypothetically: "You are mistaken, it is not the case that forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances."

Would my reply be incorrect?

I would have to say yes. :)

But I might ask you to demonstrate where I am mistaken.
 

ruby sparks

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Claim: forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.

Crucially, it can be part of a mixed strategy, and also be adaptive (help to maximise reproductive success).


So what is forgiveness?

I bet it's complicated. First of all, does a pure version ever exist? I think so. I think we can fully and truly forgive. At which point, I am suggesting, when there's a binary choice, retribution is off the table, no longer relevant. There is no point in saying 'retribution would have been the right response', even if it was deemed and agreed that there was an initial wrong, because forgiveness was deemed right instead.
That sounds off to me.

As you say, crucially, forgiveness can be part of a mixed strategy. What makes forgiveness an adaptive strategy is that it lets people break out of cycles of retaliation, where each thinks the other has wronged him. To put it in game-theoretic Prisoner's Dilemma terms, tit-for-tat is an effective strategy that does well in a wide variety of ecosystems, but it's susceptible to a failure mode where X cooperates and Y defects, so then X defects and Y cooperates, and so on, and each perpetually feels aggrieved and justified in punishing the other. But when at least one player sometimes cooperates even though the other just defected, they can switch out of the failure mode into an all-cooperation state that makes them both better off. But if X cooperates again but Y just defects again, forgiveness is not adaptive -- it's just a recipe for X to perpetually suffer while Y perpetually prospers by taking advantage of X.

Forgiveness is an invitation to the other person to reach for a better relationship than what you have. It only works if the other person is amenable to doing his part to maintain a better relationship. You have to be willing to meet each other half way. A famous expert on forgiveness reputedly said "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also". But when Peter asked the same expert how many times he should forgive, "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.". Well, if Peter's brother sins against him seven times, and Peter forgives him seven times, and his brother does it again, then when Peter forgives him the eighth time he'd better expect his brother to keep doing it the next 482 times. He's at a point where it makes sense to say 'retribution would have been the right response'. When people are forgiven they need to read into it a warning label about what will happen if they don't reform.

Jesus had it right the first time. You only have two cheeks.

I think it's fair to say that in game theory as in life, the other person's strategy (or merely behaviour) is an important factor, and we do best by accurately working out what the other person's strategy is (or likely behaviour will be) and adjusting our own strategy/behaviour accordingly, yes.

So I think that would make forgiveness a useful/adaptive element in a strategy, but only in some cases, yes.

So I agree.

But I can see why you think what I said was off (and maybe it was).

Now, maybe I would better have said that in an individual instance, a different action would be more useful/adaptive. But what I was trying to say was that in any particular instance where a binary choice has already been made, retribution is at that point not a consideration. If the other person defects/slaps again, you might have to reconsider.

I was mainly trying, perhaps clumsily, to address what I thought Angra had said in another thread, that forgiveness does not take away the fact that retribution would still have been a good thing of itself, as if there were a residue of unjustness. I'm saying there isn't, if it's true forgiveness. Now there might still have been a moral injustice (a wrong, a transgression). I only mean the injustice residue of not retributing specifically, in other words of the response. If I say/decide/feel that the just/right/good response was to forgive rather than obtain (or even want) retribution, then that's a done deal, at that point. You can't choose both.

If he or she slaps me again, all bets are off. :)

It's probably more complicated than that, perhaps because 'true, complete forgiveness' is either very rare or never actually happens.

At the very least, a past transgression is going to be remembered, and taken into account next time. Does that mean the first forgiveness was not in fact complete? I'm not sure. Could it be complete and provisional? I think so.

In other words, even full/complete forgiveness is conditional (unless one has a very poor memory or is a doormat).
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Claim: forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.
Suppose I were to reply, hypothetically: "You are mistaken, it is not the case that forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances."

Would my reply be incorrect?

I would have to say yes. :)

But I might ask you to demonstrate where I am mistaken.

No need, as I think B20 gives a better reply. :)

My point is actually very different. In saying that my reply would be incorrect, you implicitly realize that there is a fact of the matter as to whether forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.

In other words, you realize intuitively that there are moral facts (if there weren't, there would be no fact of the matter as to whether my reply is incorrect).
 

ruby sparks

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I would have to say yes. :)

But I might ask you to demonstrate where I am mistaken.

No need, as I think B20 gives a better reply. :)

My point is actually very different. In saying that my reply would be incorrect, you implicitly realize that there is a fact of the matter as to whether forgiveness can be as valid and right and just an option as the alternative, retribution, in response to what is deemed a wrong, depending on circumstances.

In other words, you realize intuitively that there are moral facts (if there weren't, there would be no fact of the matter as to whether my reply is incorrect).

There may be a fact of the matter (about morals), but it could be that morality is relative, or consequentialist, or depending on circumstances or possibly even individuals, and that neither retribution or forgiveness are, of themselves right/good/just/valid. That might be a moral fact (fact about morals). I think it is.

There is imo no fact that forgiveness (or retribution) is right/good or wrong/bad of itself, even in a single instance where there is a binary choice.

That's your claim. :D
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
There may be a fact of the matter (about morals), but it could be that morality is relative, or consequentialist, or depending on circumstances or possibly even individuals, and that neither retribution or forgiveness are, of themselves right/good/just/valid. That might be a moral fact (fact about morals). I think it is.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'relative', but other than that, great. At least you agree there is a fact of the matter.


ruby sparks said:
There is imo no fact that forgiveness (or retribution) is right/good or wrong/bad of itself, even in a single instance where there is a binary choice.
You seem to be conflating 'right' with 'good'.
Anyway, is your position that forgiveness or retribution can only be good or bad as means to ends?
ruby sparks said:
That's your claim.:D
No, you do not seem to be using the words in the same sense I am.
 

steve_bank

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For me forgiveness is about social coherence and personal mental health.

I expect most have known someone who is always negative and at war with something. Trump a prime example.

For me now it is never perfect but forgiveness is the only sane way to live. Maintaining a sense of retribution feeds on itself over time. Something gets you going at work for something someone dis you and it takes on a life of its own in your head.

If I had a blowup with somebody in the morning by the afternoon it was ancient history. I moved on.

The old saying goes when out for revenge dig two graves one for your enemy and one for you. I always took it as more metaphor for conflict in general. It has truth.
 

ruby sparks

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I'm not sure what you mean by 'relative'

I meant what is usually meant by moral relativism. I included it as one of a number of possibilities.

You seem to be conflating 'right' with 'good'.

They are commonly used as synonyms and in fact the dictionary definition of one is often the other. I know they aren't necessarily identical.


Anyway, is your position that forgiveness or retribution can only be good or bad as means to ends?


If I understand the question, which I'm not sure I do, my instinctive answer is no. I doubt that it's that simple very often, if ever, that either of them is only or fully good or bad.


No, you do not seem to be using the words in the same sense I am.


Here's your claim: "Just retribution is a good in an of itself." That's been up for grabs the whole time, in at least three threads. So far, it seems to be a matter of what is deemed to be the case by different people in specific circumstances. Most relevantly to this thread, when people eschew retribution and opt for forgiveness instead, it appears they disagree.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
I meant what is usually meant by moral relativism. I included it as one of a number of possibilities.

There is no standard definition. Several are in use.

ruby sparks said:
They are commonly used as synonyms and in fact the dictionary definition of one is often the other. I know they aren't necessarily identical.
Regardless, you are conflating two very different distinctions. That is partly why you misunderstand my posts.

The distinctions permissible/impermissible behavior and good/bad thing are very different. For example, it is a bad thing that humans suffer in ways they do not deserve (e.g., someone gets cancer), but that does not involve any sort of impermissible behavior. Now the word 'right' is ambiguous, because sometimes it's used to mean 'obligatory', and others 'permissible'. But in any case, a distinction right/wrong is very different from good/bad, in this context.
Again, consider the king example in the other thread. It would be a good thing that the perpetrator suffers for what he did. However, it would be a bad thing that many people suffer horribly in unjust and predictable retaliation. So, it would be wrong to bring about just retribution, even if that is a good thing, because in that context, predictably there will be a very bad thing coming after that in revenge.


ruby sparks said:
If I understand the question, which I'm not sure I do, my instinctive answer is no. I doubt that it's that simple very often, if ever, that either of them is only or fully good or bad.
Okay, so if you believe that forgiveness can be good, and not just as a means to an end, then you're saying that it's a good in and of itself, at least sometimes.

ruby sparks said:
Here's your claim: "Just retribution is a good in an of itself." That's been up for grabs the whole time, in at least three threads. So far, it seems to be a matter of what is deemed to be the case by people, in specific circumstances. Most relevantly to this thread, when people eschew retribution and opt for forgiveness instead, it appears they disagree.
I don't believe you understand what I say (as evidence by persistent misrepresentation). But anyway, why would you think they disagree?
It may be better for the person to forgive than to exact retribution. This is not to say that the retribution itself would be bad. It would be good, but again I am not suggesting it is generally obligatory to bring about that good (or other specific good, usually); it is normally (though not always) permissible.
 

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Okay, so if you believe that forgiveness can be good, and not just as a means to an end, then you're saying that it's a good in and of itself, at least sometimes.

I tend not to think either forgiveness or retribution are good (or right, or just, or correct) 'of themselves'. I've already said that several times.

But anyway, why would you think they disagree?

Could be any one of a number of reasons, depending on the circumstances, including several already offered.


It may be better for the person to forgive than to exact retribution. This is not to say that the retribution itself would be bad. It would be good, but again I am not suggesting it is generally obligatory to bring about that good (or other specific good, usually); it is normally (though not always) permissible.

Obviously 'good' and 'bad' are relative terms. That goes without saying. But if it's a choice between one or the other (retribution or forgiveness), there is no one correct/right/proper/one-size-fits-all option for responses to wrongdoings, that's my substantive point. Would you disagree?
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
I tend not to think either forgiveness or retribution are good (or right, or just, or correct) 'of themselves'. I've already said that several times.
There is a misunderstanding here. What I meant is that you and I are using the words differently, and from your description, you do believe that forgiveness is good in an of itself, at least in some instances.

ruby sparks said:
Could be any one of a number of reasons, depending on the circumstances, including several already offered.
No, my question is: why would you think they disagree? Why would you have the belief that they disagree?

I think that just retribution is a good in an of itself. But I do not always seek retribution. And I sometimes forgive. Your assessment that people who eschew retribution and forgive disagree is not warranted.

ruby sparks said:
But if it's a choice between one or the other (retribution or forgiveness), there is no one correct/right/proper/one-size-fits-all choice for responses to wrongdoings, that's my substantive point. Would you disagree?
First, I would disagree with the question, as it presents this as an exhaustive choice. In reality, it is not. In fact, in plenty of cases, people neither seek just retribution nor forgive. They just let things go because seeking retribution would be either unsuccessful or too costly to be worth the effort. For example, they were mugged and would like to see the mugger punished, but...they reckon it is a lot of paperwork to denounce the mugging, and it is almost impossible that the perpetrators would be punished. Or they got hurt by a bus driver making a bad maneuver, but it's again too much of an effort with low chances of success, things like that.

Second, as I have said many times, I do not believe that just retribution is in general obligatory. I believe that it is generally permissible, though not always. This is a different matter from whether it is a good.
 

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There is a misunderstanding here. What I meant is that you and I are using the words differently, and from your description, you do believe that forgiveness is good in an of itself, at least in some instances.

I'm not entirely comfortable saying either are, but let me perhaps put it this way, it can be a good (or right, or valid, or correct) or as bad, invalid, incorrect or wrong, of itself, as much as retribution can, depending on circumstances. In many ways, that's my OP claim in a nutshell.


No, my question is: why would you think they disagree? Why would you have the belief that they disagree?

I already replied on that. It could be any one of a number of reasons, depending on the circumstances, including several already offered.

Including that some people think forgiveness (in particular circumstances) is the right thing of itself. I'm not sure I agree with them about that, because I have certain reservations about 'of itself', but hey.

I think that just retribution is a good in an of itself. But I do not always seek retribution. And I sometimes forgive. Your assessment that people who eschew retribution and forgive disagree is not warranted.

I thought it would be obvious I was talking about disagreement in a particular situation.

First, I would disagree with the question, as it presents this as an exhaustive choice. In reality, it is not. In fact, in plenty of cases, people neither seek just retribution nor forgive. They just let things go because seeking retribution would be either unsuccessful or too costly to be worth the effort. For example, they were mugged and would like to see the mugger punished, but...they reckon it is a lot of paperwork to denounce the mugging, and it is almost impossible that the perpetrators would be punished. Or they got hurt by a bus driver making a bad maneuver, but it's again too much of an effort with low chances of success, things like that.

Situations where people do not choose between the two are irrelevant and citing them is merely avoiding answering the valid question.
 

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ruby sparks said:
I already answered on that.
Recap?

ruby sparks said:
I thought it would be obvious I was talking about disagreement in a particular circumstances.
I'm afraid I'm not following.

ruby sparks said:
Situations where people do not choose between the two are irrelevant and merely avoiding the issue.
Why? I'm pointing out that generally, that is not an exclusive choice.
Moreover, you cut off the second part of my reply and say that I am avoiding the issue. Why?

Here goes again: as I have said many times, I do not believe that just retribution is in general obligatory. I believe that it is generally permissible, though not always. This is a different matter from whether it is a good.

What am I avoiding?
 

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"It could be any one of a number of reasons, depending on the circumstances, including several already offered".

To elaborate: including that some people think forgiveness (in particular circumstances) is the right thing of itself. I'm not sure I agree with them about that, because I have certain reservations about 'of itself', but hey.


Why? I'm pointing out that generally, that is not an exclusive choice.

It is sometimes.

What am I avoiding?

Answering the question. And declaring it invalid for no good reason in order to do that.

Come now, Angra. You are in a situation, you can either forgive or punish. If you forgive, you have to let go of any retributive urges, that you might or might not have had initially. I'm not talking about partial forgiveness.

If it helps, think of a very mild transgression. I'm not asking you to forgive someone who raped your daughter or killed her for fun.

I'm talking about the principle here. It will obviously be harder to forgive the further up the severity scale we go. That said, a very few people seem to be capable of forgiving the very worst things.

Infidelity is one that is commonly discussed in relation to forgiveness. But there are even much more mild ones. Many would not even say that one was mild.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
To elaborate: including that some people think forgiveness (in particular circumstances) is the right thing of itself. I'm not sure I agree with them about that, because I have certain reservations about 'of itself', but hey.
I do not know what you mean by "right thing of itself". To me, that sounds as conflation good/right. But regardless, why do you think that they disagree with me that just retribution is a good thing, in an of itself?

I believe it is, but I do not think it is generally obligatory, and I often do not choose it.

ruby sparks said:
It is sometimes.
Example?

ruby sparks said:
Answering the question. And declaring it invalid for no good reason in order to do that.
That is false. First, I did not 'declare' the question invalid. I argued it seemed to have a problem.

Second, I did not do that in order to avoid answering (by the way, you really do not have the slightest idea about how I think).

Third, I answered the question!!!! Twice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You just cut off my reply from your post, and instead accused me of dodging. Why? So, I insisted in replying. And now you insist on the false dodge charge.

So, here goes my reply, for the n-th time: I have said many times, I do not believe that just retribution is in general obligatory. I believe that it is generally permissible, though not always. This is a different matter from whether it is a good.

ruby sparks said:
Come now, Angra. You are in a situation, you can either forgive or punish. If you forgive, you have to let go of any retributive urges, that you might or might not have had initially. I'm not talking about partial forgiveness.
How can I be in such a situation? I can do neither. Or I can forgive. But that is not at all your question. You asked "But if it's a choice between one or the other (retribution or forgiveness), there is no one correct/right/proper/one-size-fits-all choice for responses to wrongdoings, that's my substantive point. Would you disagree?".

Well, I disagree with to the binary nature of the choice, but obviously, there is no one correct choice for all responses. I have said that like a gazillion times, even before you asked me, even in the other thread - no, in the other two threads. When will you understand just that little bit about my position? :(



ruby sparks said:
If it helps, think of a very mild transgression. I'm not asking you to forgive someone who raped your daughter or killed her for fun.

I'm talking about the principle here. It will obviously be harder to forgive the further up the scale you go.

Infidelity is one that is commonly discussed. But there are even milder ones.
Forgiveness works sometimes for the people forgiving, and is permissible in many, many cases. Why do you keep asking that? :confused:
 

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....obviously, there is no one correct choice for all responses. I have said that like a gazillion times, even before you asked me, even in the other thread - no, in the other two threads. When will you understand just that little bit about my position? :(

I honestly do not think I am the only person you confuse, Angra. It is hard for me to be sure what your position actually is. Ditto in the other thread regarding whether you think there are facts about morality that are independent of human assessments.
 

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....obviously, there is no one correct choice for all responses.

I honestly do not think I am by any means the only person who is confused by your posts, Angra. It is hard for me to be sure what your position actually is at any given time. Ditto in the other thread regarding whether you think there are facts about morality that are independent of human assessments.
 

Angra Mainyu

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....obviously, there is no one correct choice for all responses. I have said that like a gazillion times, even before you asked me, even in the other thread - no, in the other two threads. When will you understand just that little bit about my position? :(

I honestly do not think I am the only person you confuse, Angra. It is hard for me to be sure what your position actually is. Ditto in the other thread regarding whether you think there are facts about morality that are independent of human assessments.
I think I have been pretty clear, but if there is something you do not understand about my position, you can ask me. :)
 

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I think I have been pretty clear, but if there is something you do not understand about my position, you can ask me. :)

Basically, I am now not even sure what we have been disagreeing about.

I'm not even going near that new word, 'permissible'. :)

The term 'morally permissible' is a common term, like 'morally impermissible', 'morally obligatory', 'morally wrong', and so on. :)
 

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I didn't say it wasn't.

I would rather stick with the words in the claims, that's all. :)

'Right', 'good' and 'just', for example.

We can deal with permissible later, if we ever finish discussing those.

And personally, I'm thinking 'good' has already gotten blurry and slippery (being relative).

One question. Are you a retributivist, or not?
 
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Angra, if you prefer me not to skip past permissible and obligatory, and I'm now thinking I shouldn't, then I would say that I agree that just retribution is morally permissible, though not obligatory.

There might be more to say and it might not be as simple as that, but that's a general caveat for almost every possible philosophical topic.

I don't know if I could say it and reasonably claim to be a retributivist, but my guess is that I could, in one way or another (eg by more often preferring retribution over forgiveness, but possibly in other ways) because most philosophical isms allow for a variety of stances and strengths. I could be a 6 or a 7 on a hypothetical scale of retributivism for example. Or I could say I take a mixed approach. Whether that last one could reasonably be called retributivism I'm not sure.

To the best of my memory, I had not read of a version of retributivism that seemed to say that punishment was merely one permissible option and that forgiveness (instead, I mean, when it's one or the other, which it very often isn't) was also a permissible option, but maybe I just had not read everything there is to read about retributivism or appreciated all the nuances.

My preferred claim would then be, "Just retribution is morally permissible but not obligatory".

'Of itself' is something I'd prefer to leave out, for reasons given. It may be that you do not actually consider, think carefully about or necessarily pay conscious attention to another reason, but there may still be one. For example, that something 'floats your boat', makes you happy, feels right, gives satisfaction or releases dopamine or some other chemical reward. Possibly also that something is adaptive. I have looked at dictionary definitions of the noun 'reason' and it can be taken to mean basis, cause or motive, and I'd include 'getting a personal reward' in that.

Leaving out 'of itself' also allows for the sort of consequentialism (consequences as causes and bases) which I set out in another thread.
 
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Ruby, can you define just retribution? Would that be a proportional response?

I have been watching reruns of the old Gunsmoke TV show. The marshal in Dodge City represented the counterbalance to personal retribution creating order and civility.
 

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Ruby, can you define just retribution? Would that be a proportional response?

I have been watching reruns of the old Gunsmoke TV show. The marshal in Dodge City represented the counterbalance to personal retribution creating order and civility.

Setting aside any caveats and just assuming there is such a thing, omitting use of the word 'deemed', and noting that this is the forgiveness thread........:)

As I see it, it's punishment that someone deserves for committing a wrong.

Components leading up to it might include a fair, two-sided hearing (formal or informal), establishing the facts, establishing guilt, and deliberation.

As to the actual retribution, only punishing the guilty and yes, making the severity of the punishment proportional to the severity of the wrong.

Others might add to or change that.
 
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steve_bank

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Ruby, can you define just retribution? Would that be a proportional response?

I have been watching reruns of the old Gunsmoke TV show. The marshal in Dodge City represented the counterbalance to personal retribution creating order and civility.

Setting aside any caveats and just assuming there is such a thing, omitting use of the word 'deemed', and noting that this is the forgiveness thread........:)

As I see it, it's punishment that someone deserves for committing a wrong.

Components leading up to it might include a fair, two-sided hearing (formal or informal), establishing the facts, establishing guilt, and deliberation.

As to the actual retribution, only punishing the guilty and yes, making the severity of the punishment proportional to the severity of the wrong.

Others might add to or change that.

ok, thanks.

You would then consider a justice system just retribution? Without debating what just means.
 

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You would then consider a justice system just retribution? Without debating what just means.

I guess that would only be true if that system dispensed just retribution.

It wouldn't be true of all possible justice systems, eg an unfair or corrupt one, where either it wasn't always the guilty who got punished, or where the severity of the punishment for the same wrongs was greater or lesser for certain subgroups (eg if it depended on skin colour, ethnicity, gender, age, political persuasion, wealth, or member/citizen status).

There might also be issues around what that system defined as a wrong in the first place (eg homosexuality).

Also, a justice system might not only function on 'purely' moral grounds. Social control may be another function, even in non-totalitarian, democratic societies. As would merely channeling the retributive interests or sentiments of the particular people in its jurisdiction, or at least the majority of them, or alternatively the interests or sentiments of a minority that has sufficient power and influence. Politics in general could easily come into it, or money, or religion. We could say that all of those have moral aspects or considerations to them though.

Bear in mind that a justice system is only the formal, official context for such matters. All these issues are in principle relevant to human interactions and infringements generally (infidelity for example, which may or may not be illegal depending on the society/system). A milder example might be bullying that does not go as far as breaking a law, an even milder example might be queue-jumping. In such cases we might say the rules/codes are partly or fully informal, even if subject to many of the same considerations. Some of them may be subject to 'localised' rules, in 'mini-justice systems', such as apply in, say, a school or workplace but not the law courts. Others outside such contexts may be fully informal and unofficial. Or, they may not be reported to or discovered by the relevant authority. Justice dispensed by systems is limited to not only what incidents are deemed relevant to them but also to which cases come to their attention.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

An interesting question, and one which might be more specifically relevant to this particular thread might be whether a justice system can dispense forgiveness. I think that is generally considered to only be an option for individuals, and indeed possibly only the wronged individuals (I arguably can't forgive Ted Bundy or Hitler for example, if I was not a direct or indirect victim). That said, restorative justice systems can feature forgiveness, and possibly promote it to some extent (or merely put it on the table as a consideration) in some cases, though it's not generally a necessary component, and is merely an option for the wronged party.

That said, as far as I know, dispensing forgiveness (sometimes called a pardon) is or was a power granted to those 'external' third parties deemed 'wise leaders' (eg kings in ancient times) and is of course given to some gods ('superkings') that are believed to exist, albeit sometimes any wrong against anyone is said to be a wrong against that god, thereby supposedly making that god a relevant interested party.

The even more interesting question might therefore be whether an external party or a state justice system should (ought to) be able to dispense forgiveness, independently of the wronged party (eg for social reasons). After all, it seems uncontroversial that they or it can dispense retribution, independently of the wronged party, presumably for social reasons.

Note that non-retribution (or eschewing retribution), even if it were a permissible option, is not necessarily forgiveness. Whether it's identical to a pardon is also discussable. I don't think they are always used identically.

Note also that forgiveness can and often does come after or alongside retribution. When it's a binary choice, one precludes the other.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
I don't know if I could say it and reasonably claim to be a retributivist, but my guess is that I could, in one way or another (eg by more often preferring retribution over forgiveness, but possibly in other ways) because most philosophical isms allow for a variety of stances and strengths. I could be a 6 or a 7 on a hypothetical scale of retributivism for example. Or I could say I take a mixed approach. Whether that last one could reasonably be called retributivism I'm not sure.
A minimal version would just say that wrongdoers deserve punishment in retribution for what they did, with no further conditions.

ruby sparks said:
'Of itself' is something I'd prefer to leave out, for reasons given.
That was/is a misunderstanding. That was about being good, not being obligatory or even permissible.


ruby sparks said:
An interesting question, and one which might be more specifically relevant to this particular thread might be whether a justice system can dispense forgiveness. I think that is generally considered to only be an option for individuals, and indeed possibly only the wronged individuals (I arguably can't forgive Ted Bundy or Hitler for example, if I was not a direct or indirect victim).

I think as a practical matter, due to limited resources and things like that, it is permissible to set up a system in which some wrongdoers are not pursued, but as you say, that is not the same as forgiveness.

Now, sometimes, it is even permissible to agree not to punish them (rather than just letting them go due to a lack of resources), e.g., they make a deal with the prosecutor to hand over evidence that gets some much worse wrongdoers convicted. There is the question of whether that is a kind of forgiveness. That does look in a way like forgiveness, but being a government act rather than a personal one, this looks to me more as a legal issue, without the psychological context of forgiveness. In any event, this sort of thing - like, say, presidential pardons - does not involve forgiveness from other people, e.g., the victims if there are any.
 

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A minimal version would just say that wrongdoers deserve punishment in retribution for what they did, with no further conditions.

That implies (possibly by omission) that wrongdoers only deserve punishment or it's at least ambiguous about that. Maybe, a wrongdoer deserves forgiveness instead (or as well).


That was/is a misunderstanding. That was about being good, not being obligatory or even permissible.

Ok.


I think as a practical matter, due to limited resources and things like that, it is permissible to set up a system in which some wrongdoers are not pursued, but as you say, that is not the same as forgiveness.

Now, sometimes, it is even permissible to agree not to punish them (rather than just letting them go due to a lack of resources), e.g., they make a deal with the prosecutor to hand over evidence that gets some much worse wrongdoers convicted. There is the question of whether that is a kind of forgiveness. That does look in a way like forgiveness, but being a government act rather than a personal one, this looks to me more as a legal issue, without the psychological context of forgiveness. In any event, this sort of thing - like, say, presidential pardons - does not involve forgiveness from other people, e.g., the victims if there are any.

I think I agree with all that. And like you, I don't think the 'cutting a deal' is forgiveness, in any way, though I agree it sort of looks like it in some ways. My guess is it's merely non-retribution.
 

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ruby sparks said:
That implies (possibly by omission) that wrongdoers only deserve punishment or it's at least ambiguous about that. Maybe, a wrongdoer deserves forgiveness instead (or as well).
I don't think a wrongdoer can deserve forgiveness (it's more like it's freely given), unless perhaps you are talking about something that happens after the fact, so that e.g., a wrongdoer later sincerely changes his ways, and so he no longer deserves to be punished - though it is debatable whether that's the same as deserving forgiveness.

But that aside, to be clear I am talking about punishment that might be as light as to be called on it, be told that he was being immoral, and so on.
 

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I don't think a wrongdoer can deserve forgiveness..

It's been pretty obvious for quite a while that you think that, probably partly because of your strong belief in free will and for other reasons to do with what you think morality is, and other things that are just about you and your propositional attitudes.

Go ahead, speak for yourself, and on behalf of all those who would agree with you. That's always a permissible response.
 
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I don't think a wrongdoer can deserve forgiveness..

It's been pretty obvious for quite a while that you think that, probably partly because of your strong belief in free will and for other reasons to do with what you think morality is, and other things that are just about you and your propositional attitudes.

Go ahead, speak for yourself, and on behalf of all those who would agree with you. That's always a permissible response.
We are talking about a wrongdoer that did not do any kind of change after the wrongdoing, so there seems to be no basis for deserving something positive. Why do you think the wrongdoer might deserve forgiveness?
 

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But that aside, to be clear I am talking about punishment that might be as light as to be called on it, be told that he was being immoral, and so on.

'What you did was morally wrong, but you deserve forgivenesss instead of punishment' would be fine. Telling someone a fact about the action itself, if it is a fact, is a separate issue, if you're not also telling them they deserve to be punished. There has to be a wrongdoing, otherwise there's nothing to forgive. A human who understood this and was merely told, 'I forgive you for doing X' would know that already.
 
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We are talking about a wrongdoer that did not do any kind of change after the wrongdoing

Are we? I wasn't aware of that, or that we were necessarily allowing time for that to be the case.


Why do you think the wrongdoer might deserve forgiveness?

Ok so all of these are to be prefixed with the phrase, "it's a wrong, but....."

1. To err is human (that's possibly the biggie).

2. I like forgiving, and I also think it's the morally good thing to do in this situation.

3. Forgiving them might be better for me.

4. Being forgiven might be better for them (might bring about positive change in them).

5. If 5, being forgiven might be better for people they subsequently interact with.

6. The mitigating antecedent circumstances allow/explain/excuse it.

I could go on, I think. An act of forgiveness might involve one or more of those, or other reasons.

The bases are essentially of the same or similar type as for retribution. A certain, alternative response to a wrong (or a deemed wrong) is deemed to be a permissible option, in the judgement of the victim.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Angra Mainyu said:
Why do you think the wrongdoer might deserve forgiveness?
Ok so all of these are to be prefixed with the phrase, "it's a wrong, but....."

1. To err is human (that's possibly the biggie).

2. I like forgiving, and I also think it's the morally good thing to do in this situation.

3. Forgiving them might be better for me.

4. Being forgiven might be better for them (might bring about positive change in them).

5. If 5, being forgiven might be better for people they subsequently interact with.

6. The mitigating antecedent circumstances allow/explain/excuse it.

I could go on, I think. An act of forgiveness might involve one or more of those, or other reasons.

The bases are essentially of the same or similar type as for retribution. A certain, alternative response to a wrong (or a deemed wrong) is deemed to be a permissible option, in the judgement of the victim.
1. is true in the sense that humans are fallible. But how does being fallible make a human deserve a reward, in particular forgiveness?
2. What you like is irrelevant as to what the wrongdoer deserves. As to whether it is 'the morally good' thing to do, suggests a moral obligation, albeit with an odd wording. If that is what you meant, why is it obligatory? If it is not what you meant, then why is it good in some sense, and how is that related to what the wrongdoer deserves?
3. True, but irrelevant as to whether the wrongdoer deserves. What the wrongdoer deserves is a property of the wrongdoer, not of you.
4. That might be true, but why would they deserve what is better for them, given that they behaved wrongfully?
5. You mean if 4? Sure, it might, and that would be a reason to forgive them. However, that would not be a reason to think they deserve forgiveness.
6. If they allow/excuse it, they did not act immorally, so there seems to be nothing to forgive. If they explain it but do not excuse it/allow it, then they behaved wrongfully, and that the behavior is explained does not provide a good reason to think they deserve forgiveness (every behavior is explained, even that of serial killers, e.g., the explanation is they like it).

An act of forgiveness might involve many things. My objection is to the claim that they deserve it.
 

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ruby sparks said:
Angra Mainyu said:
Why do you think the wrongdoer might deserve forgiveness?
Ok so all of these are to be prefixed with the phrase, "it's a wrong, but....."

1. To err is human (that's possibly the biggie).

2. I like forgiving, and I also think it's the morally good thing to do in this situation.

3. Forgiving them might be better for me.

4. Being forgiven might be better for them (might bring about positive change in them).

5. If 5, being forgiven might be better for people they subsequently interact with.

6. The mitigating antecedent circumstances allow/explain/excuse it.

I could go on, I think. An act of forgiveness might involve one or more of those, or other reasons.

The bases are essentially of the same or similar type as for retribution. A certain, alternative response to a wrong (or a deemed wrong) is deemed to be a permissible option, in the judgement of the victim.
1. is true in the sense that humans are fallible. But how does being fallible make a human deserve a reward, in particular forgiveness?
2. What you like is irrelevant as to what the wrongdoer deserves. As to whether it is 'the morally good' thing to do, suggests a moral obligation, albeit with an odd wording. If that is what you meant, why is it obligatory? If it is not what you meant, then why is it good in some sense, and how is that related to what the wrongdoer deserves?
3. True, but irrelevant as to whether the wrongdoer deserves. What the wrongdoer deserves is a property of the wrongdoer, not of you.
4. That might be true, but why would they deserve what is better for them, given that they behaved wrongfully?
5. You mean if 4? Sure, it might, and that would be a reason to forgive them. However, that would not be a reason to think they deserve forgiveness.
6. If they allow/excuse it, they did not act immorally, so there seems to be nothing to forgive. If they explain it but do not excuse it/allow it, then they behaved wrongfully, and that the behavior is explained does not provide a good reason to think they deserve forgiveness (every behavior is explained, even that of serial killers, e.g., the explanation is they like it).

I would be happy to answer all those, and I may do if you still want me to, but I think there's a fundamental issue here that needs to be addressed first, otherwise I'll just be wasting our time answering those questions and they won't make sense (to you). The fundamental issue is that you make a claim that I don't yet accept, which is not only (a) that it is a moral fact that a wrongdoer deserves to be punished (and as far as you are concerned that does not go away even if there is forgiveness instead) and crucially, and more controversially imo, (b) that this is a moral fact that is external to and independent of the person(s) deeming to either forgive or punish.

If someone (eg you) believes both those things, (a) & (b), then no answer from me can suffice for you, because an answer from me would only ever be about what the wronged person or wronged persons, or the humans observing (who may largely agree one way or the other) deem to be what is deserved, however they do that (and essentially it could be instinctive in the end, which might be the ultimate answer to your initial question) and that may not in some cases be punishment, it may be forgiveness instead.

An act of forgiveness might involve many things. My objection is to the claim that they deserve it.

Indeed. And my objection is to the claim that they necessarily deserve punishment. And essentially, I could be asking you pretty much the same questions you are asking me. And if your bottom-line answer is 'it feels instinctively right' I'll say that about forgiveness. And if your answer boils down to saying 'it's an independent moral fact' then I would be very sceptical about that. I think that nearly everything we are and have been discussing may now revolve around this issue that has come up regarding your claim of independence.

If you accepted that both deserving punishment and deserving forgiveness were independent moral facts, depending on circumstances, it would be helpful for you, and be one way to get the fly of forgiveness out of the ointment of your claims, but that would still involve the claim that there are independent moral facts, which at this point I am very sceptical about. Further, even if there were, there would have to be either a vast number of specific versions of them, given that moral judgements are obviously relative to so many, many things, and combinations of them, and fluctuations in them over time (at which point it would surely be a better descriptor to say they are relative) or so vague and general that they are more or less useless for determining the right answer in any given situation. One way to not be wrong is to merely be sufficiently vague.
 
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ruby sparks said:
I would be happy to answer all those, and I may do if you still want me to, but I think there's a fundamental issue here that needs to be addressed first, otherwise I'll just be wasting our time answering those questions and they won't make sense (to you). The fundamental issue is that you make a claim that I don't yet accept, which is not only (a) that it is a moral fact that a wrongdoer deserves to be punished (and as far as you are concerned that does not go away even if there is forgiveness instead) and crucially, and more controversially imo, (b) that this is a moral fact that is external to and independent of the person(s) deeming to either forgive or punish.
The proper way of making moral assessments is using our moral sense, so I am doing just that. But the claim is meant to be seen as correct by other human moral senses as well. Now, you do not accept it. But you also reject (when you are discussing these matters; I do not know you do that when you are not thinking about it) most of the ordinary human moral assessments, so the fact that you reject these ones does not seem to say much.

But just to be clear, and in particular regarding your point (a), I would say this:

1. When I say wrongdoers deserve punisment, as I said before, I do not mean they deserve a lot of punishment. That depends on the wrongdoing. The punishment might consist in being called on it, be told that he was being immoral, and so on.

2. While I hold that forgiveness does not make the fact that a wrongdoer deserves punishment, I do not believe that nothing other than punishment can make it go away. For example, if the wrongdoer was not punished for something that happened 2 decades ago, and the person has made considerable changes ever since and would not engage in the same sort of behavior, then I do not think they still deserve punishment for that deed. Of course, there is the issue of how much they changed. A cold-blooded murderer probably still deserves punishment because he hasn't actually changed that much. But the point is that it depends on the current brain/mind of the former perpetrator. In fact, for lesser offenses, even a short period in which the person shows remorse, apologizes, etc., might be enough.

With respect to your point (b), then yes I hold it is independent of the person deciding whether to forgive or to punish. But this is generally the case for moral properties in general. For example, whether a behavior is immoral does not depend on whether someone deems it so. To see that, consider the example from this post.

me said:
...suppose Ahmed and Ahmad want to blow up a train full of people. They learn how to do it in the same manner. They independently acquire materials from the same places. They do all of the same stuff (not connected to each other). They plant the bombs. At that point, their participation ends. What happens later cannot retroactively make them any more or less guilty. And what happens later is that Ahmed's bomb goes of killing 200 people, whereas Ahmad's bomb fails to go off due to a defect in a circuit which was exactly the same model as that used by Ahmed, and even bought in the same place, with the same degree of care, etc.

To be more precise, I should have pointed out they incur further guilt after they plant the bombs, because they fail to go and disarm the bombs they immorally planted. The example, however, works for its purpose. But now let us consider the punishment they deserve. They did the same, are equally guilty, and deserve the same punishment. Now suppose that Ahmad is never blamed for his actions. In fact, he manages to retrieve the faulty bomb before the authorities find it, so his actions remain undetected. He is not forgiven, but he is not blamed, either. That fact also cannot change what he deseves already. Now Ahmed gets blamed. Would that make him more deserving of punishment? I say clearly not. Whether he deserves punishment is a property of Ahmed, not a property of those blaming him. Why would it be otherwise?

But now let us say that another terrorist, Sajid, does the same as Ahmed and Ahmad, and the bomb goes off, as in the case of Ahmed. But as it happens, some (or all) of the families of the victims come to believe in a forgiving ideology and decide to forgive him, whereas no one forgives Ahmed. Does that mean that Sajid deserves less punishment than Ahmed (perhaps even no punishment at all). Again, clearly not. The punishment they deserve depends on their minds (i.e., those of the perpetrators), not on the minds of other people. Do you assess otherwise?

ruby sparks said:
If someone (eg you) believes both those things, (a) & (b), then no answer from me can suffice for you, because an answer from me would only ever be about what the wronged person or wronged persons, or the humans observing (who may largely agree one way or the other) deem to be what is deserved, however they do that (and essentially it could be instinctive in the end, which might be the ultimate answer to your initial question) and that may not in some cases be punishment, it may be forgiveness instead.

But let me ask you: is that really what you intuitively, instinctively if you like, say?
Imagine immoral actions with no witnesses. For example:


S10: Jack is a serial killer goes around murdering homeless people for pleasure. He is careful to pick homeless people who are alone and have no one who would look for them, in his assessment - which turns out to be correct. Other people either do not notice they're gone or just think they've move to live on the streets somewhere else. At any rate, there are no witnesses. No one ever figures out that Jack ever killed anyone.​

In S10, no humans observe any wrongdoing, so no one deems that Jack deserves any punishment. Would you say that in that case, Jack deserves no punishment whatsoever for murdering homeless people for pleasure? I'm asking not only what your theory says, but more importantly, what your moral sense instinctively says.


ruby sparks said:
Indeed. And my objection is to the claim that they necessarily deserve punishment. And essentially, I could be asking you pretty much the same questions you are asking me. And if your bottom-line answer is 'it feels instinctively right' I'll say that about forgiveness.
But does it? Does it really feel instinctively right to you that they deserve forgiveness? That would be like a reward, something positive. But why would someone who behaved wrongfully would deserve something positive?

ruby sparks said:
I think that nearly everything we are and have been discussing may now revolve around this issue that has come up regarding your claim of independence.
I already explained that it is independent in some senses but not others. You do not seem to be very clear about what you mean by it.
 

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Of course, there is the issue of how much they changed. A cold-blooded murderer probably still deserves punishment because he hasn't actually changed that much. But the point is that it depends on the current brain/mind of the former perpetrator.

I disagree. You can forgive someone without them ever knowing you are doing it. I could forgive, say, my daughter, or my mother for something, even if I never see them again and have no idea at all whether they either have remorse or have changed, or ultimately even if they are still alive.

In S10, no humans observe any wrongdoing, so no one deems that Jack deserves any punishment. Would you say that in that case, Jack deserves no punishment whatsoever for murdering homeless people for pleasure? I'm asking not only what your theory says, but more importantly, what your moral sense instinctively says.

Yes, when considering that particular hypothetical situation, my instinctive moral sense says that it's wrong and deserves punishment, but in the end, what has my instinctive response to a particular hypothetical deed by particular hypothetical people in particular hypothetical circumstances got to do with it? What if you picked a different situation involving lesser wrong that we nevertheless both agreed was a wrong and in that case I felt otherwise? Doing killing for fun is just limiting yourself to an 'easy' example over which there would be a great deal of agreement. Go down even half a notch and a few people have forgiven terrorists. More to the point, go further and further down the scale of severity of wrong, to very minor transgressions, and bring in a host of other variables (eg all those I listed in my thread on moral relativism) and more people would probably feel forgiveness is deserved instead, in certain situations.

Does it really feel instinctively right to you that they deserve forgiveness?

Yes, in some cases it does, depending on the particularities, and I am far from being the only one who would say that.

I already explained that it is independent in some senses but not others.

I don't understand what you mean by independence.
 
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The AntiChris

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I don't understand what you mean by independence.
The 'independence' that I find controversial is stated explicitly in this quote from the Grand Contradiction thread:

Permissibility or impermissibility (immorality, moral wrongness, or whatever word one likes better) is a property of McConnell's behavior.
In other words, according to Angra Mainyu, an action is moral/immoral independent of anyone's beliefs, feelings, attitudes or opinions. It follows that in principle it is possible that a behaviour could be immoral even though no one in the universe thought it was.

It makes no sense to me.
 

ruby sparks

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I don't understand what you mean by independence.
The 'independence' that I find controversial is stated explicitly in this quote from the Grand Contradiction thread:

Permissibility or impermissibility (immorality, moral wrongness, or whatever word one likes better) is a property of McConnell's behavior.
In other words, according to Angra Mainyu, an action is moral/immoral independent of anyone's beliefs, feelings, attitudes or opinions. It follows that in principle it is possible that a behaviour could be immoral even though no one in the universe thought it was.

It makes no sense to me.

Nor me. Well, it makes a certain sense (is not incoherent) and maybe it's hypothetically possible, if, say, there was some moral standard or fact that was externally independent of living things (and sometimes instantiated or manifested in them) but if I say instead that right and wrong are only what they are deemed to be by those doing the deeming, and that there's nothing externally independent of that, that seems to be an adequate explanation which covers absolutely everything. Anything else, while possible, seems to be undemonstrateable, unfalsifiable, superfluous and redundant to the explanation.
 

ruby sparks

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That said, here's a possibility. And I'm surprised it hasn't come up yet.

A moral realist could claim (some do, apparently) that morality is like mathematics.

So, in principle, and without having thought it through, it seems to me possible that there are laws of morality as there are laws of mathematics (or physics), which are, of course, fully independent not just of brains, or of living things, but are true literally universally (of the universe) and are only sometimes instantiated in living things, and in brains configured to manifest them, and not always necessarily understood or accessed by those brains.

Personally, I would not rule this out.

Now, the image below, plucked from the internet, might illustrate in principle, at least the general sort of thing:




Where, say, the Lgws at the start (left hand side of the equation) represents a 'moral fact' in some case or situation, and the other symbols are variables.

For example,

'A' could be 'degree of genetic (or other) relatedness between the two actors' (on some scale) although we might need different symbols for genetic and other.

'g' could be 'degree of psychological disposition towards favouring retribution by one of the actors' (on some scale).

'i' could be 'degree of severity of outcome' (on some scale).

'z' could be 'degree to which the relevant species is a sentient, socially-interacting species' (on some scale) although we might need separate symbols for sentience and socially-interacting.

And so on.

And all those variables might interact and might themselves be subject to (because of) other variables. 'g' for example, could be the case for a wide number of reasons.


I could push this even further, and say that given full determinism, and if the laws of mathematics and/or physics were therefore fully contained in and prescribed by the state of the universe at the time of the big bang, what happened would be as inevitable for morality as for everything else that manifested in the universe, and so would arguably have been a latent fact, even beforehand. The Fibonacci Number Sequence, for example, is exhibited by plants (eg sunflowers) and under the above scenario, was always going to be.

And as Treedbear said in the Retributivism thread, perhaps when 'life' emerges (and in the above scenario, it has to, and indeed in a certain way, to be a certain thing) there is a basis for morality that is essentially, 'continued existence (life) is good and right' or 'has merit', a bit like the Fibonacci Sequence, and which arguably holds true even if an organism has no sense of what 'good' or 'right' or 'merit' or 'Fibonacci Sequence' mean. A propositional attitude about morality would then be an optional add-on feature that only some organisms had the capacity to experience. Which might be an idea that fromderinside might warm to.

I'm not sure what randomness, if it exists, would do to that, but I bet it would be very complicated. :)

But maybe we could still say that things were 'as latently true' for maths and physics as for morality (unless random effects differed between those things).


Mind you, in the end, I think even saying all that would still be saying that morality is effectively relative. But perhaps being 'relative' (even to a multitude of variables and permutations of them, which might themselves change over time) and being 'independent' are not mutually exclusive.
 
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Tigers!

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In other words, even full/complete forgiveness is conditional (unless one has a very poor memory or is a doormat).

If forgiveness has conditions it is not really forgiveness. It just becomes a transaction.
Forgiveness must start with the wronged party. It is not necessary for the other party to accept the offered forgiveness.

In Sydney, Australia a couple of weeks ago a drunk driver mowed down 4 children on their bikes, killing 3 of them and seriously injuring the other. The parents of the 3 dead children ( brothers & sisters) gave forgiveness to the driver.
The driver does not have to accept the forgiveness. It is offered by the parents without conditions.
Note that this does not mean the driver will face no consequences. He broke the law and will face a trial. But the parents have refused to take vengeance or retribution for, or by, themselves.
 

ruby sparks

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In other words, even full/complete forgiveness is conditional (unless one has a very poor memory or is a doormat).

If forgiveness has conditions it is not really forgiveness. It just becomes a transaction.
Forgiveness must start with the wronged party. It is not necessary for the other party to accept the offered forgiveness.

In Sydney, Australia a couple of weeks ago a drunk driver mowed down 4 children on their bikes, killing 3 of them and seriously injuring the other. The parents of the 3 dead children ( brothers & sisters) gave forgiveness to the driver.
The driver does not have to accept the forgiveness. It is offered by the parents without conditions.
Note that this does not mean the driver will face no consequences. He broke the law and will face a trial. But the parents have refused to take vengeance or retribution for, or by, themselves.

Yeah.

Interpersonal forgiveness is often a dyadic interaction, but it doesn't have to be.

It's the same with retribution. The other person does not have to agree or even know about it, know that someone thinks it is deserved I mean.

I would say that retribution and forgiveness are in some ways two sides of the same coin, were it not for the fact that it seems more complicated than that (because both are permitted in a single case).
 

Angra Mainyu

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The AntiChris said:
In other words, according to Angra Mainyu, an action is moral/immoral independent of anyone's beliefs, feelings, attitudes or opinions. It follows that in principle it is possible that a behaviour could be immoral even though no one in the universe thought it was.

It makes no sense to me.

ruby sparks said:


When you say it makes no sense to you, do you mean that you do not understand what it means (i.e., you find it incoherent), or that you disagree? (that is a question for both of you).

Of course in reality, it is not only coherent, but easy to understand, in line with human moral intuitions, and true. Purely for example, consider the following scenario:


S11: Jack is an evil genius, and a serial killer. He goes around murdering homeless people for fun. But he wants more. He wants to inflict more pain and death and general carnage. He also gets off deceiving people, so that no one knows he is the one doing the evil deeds. When he sees how mistaken his victims are, he experience great pleasure. So, he thinks of a devious plan, and carries it out. First, he makes a superintelligent AI with the purpose of enslaving the rest of humanity, pretending to be an alien invassion. Of course, Jack will be in charge, and will engage in all sorts of horrific torture of humans to death under the guise of alien experimentation. But no other human will know that. Well, it turns out he succeeds: he makes the AI, which in a few days makes billions for him (without telling anyone). Then it makes a ship, goes to the asteroid belt, makes a much bigger ship, and then attacks. Hacking everything and with the firepower of its ship, the AI wins easily. All armed forces are defeated. Armies of robots are made, and the Earth is taken over. Jack rules almighty, and tortures many humans to death, leaves millions to starve, uses bioweapons to cause horrific illnesses, and so on. So, monstruous fun. :)
Now, Jack is a psychopath, and does not have any negative attitudes against wrongful actions. Of course, he would get angry if anyone did something against him, but that would be so regardless of whether the deed is immoral. In short, he just does not react in any negative way to immorality per se - and, indeed, he enjoys some of the most atrocious immoral acts anyone can think of. Moreover, he is a moral error theorist who believe that no behavior is immoral. The AI, on the other hand, does not have a moral sense, and does not find it useful to bother studying human morality, so he makes no moral judgments whatsoever.​

In S11, Jack engaged in many immoral actions. He does not deem them immoral. In the vast majority of cases, no other human knew that Jack engaged in them. So, in particular, they did not deem the actions immoral. Purely for example, Jack's creation of an AI designed to take over the world and subjugate humanity so that he can torture everyone he wants for fun is a morally despicable set of actions. But no one knows he did that, except for himself, and the AI he created. However, as specified, neither Jack nor the AI make a moral judgment about his behavior.

I hope at least you understand that it is coherent to say that Jack's behavior in creating the AI, etc., is morally despicable, and that humans generally would realize that. But in the scenario, nobody thought it was immoral. Now if when you say it makes no sense to you, you merely say that you disagree but you understand that the claim is coherent, okay, so this is a disagreement.
 

ruby sparks

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I hope at least you understand that it is coherent to say that Jack's behavior in creating the AI, etc., is morally despicable, and that humans generally would realize that.

It seems that humans generally, including me, would deem it to be that, yes.

But in the scenario, nobody thought it was immoral.

Really? No one deemed that what the robots were doing was wrong? Cool scenario. Very, very implausible indeed however. Have you seen the film, 'War of the Worlds'? The aliens were deemed to be breaching moral standards, Big Time. And humans surely would also deem it that way, if it ever actually happened.

And even if Jack had (in another scenario), seemingly randomly, unleashed small, fiery asteroids from outer space, and not torturing robots, the victims would only not deem it immoral because (as in your scenario) they did not know the facts, particularly about intentions. It's very odd indeed that you are willing to set that factor aside now when it suits you after having banged on for so long about it being important to making accurate moral judgements.

If someone is harmed or killed and it is deemed to be some sort of accident or natural phenomenon (absent any beliefs about the agency of a god for instance) of course no one will deem it immoral. Duh.

And if it was (probably incorrectly) deemed to be a god, they might not deem it immoral. They might think it just retribution. Which would weaken your case even further, and also possibly illustrate why your analogy with cat faeces in the other thread was not necessarily a good one when it comes to supposed gods giving moral permissions.

And in any case, all the deeming in all those scenarios, of whatever sort, is still taking place in human brains. No independence so far.

A number of big fails on your part there. Large asteroid-sized fails.

And also, this thread is about forgiveness, not about whether something is or isn't a wrong. That there's at least an an agreed deemed wrong is already assumed. I've been willing to also discuss here the other issue of what is or isn't 'actually' a wrong and whether it's independently true or not, but since we're not getting anywhere on that, perhaps we should leave it out here. You could still bring it up in the thread it came up in, or start a new one, since it was arguably a detour in that other thread ('The Great Contradiction').

What's odd is that Treedbear's suggested independent right and wrong, and my subsequent reply to AntiChris in post 46, both offered your claims about independence a leg up, and yet you've not picked up on either of them. In case you hadn't noticed, I was willing to agree in principle that you could be right. Perhaps you, like a non-minuscule proportion of humans, prefer disagreements about morality a non-minuscule proportion of the time. ;)
 
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