Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, January 13, 2006

Noel Hurley's reviews / Molyneux on forgiveness

As a Christian, Noel Hurley's reviews are really funny. I like the part where he spreads a map on the floor, stands on a chair, and pretends to be God. As an atheist, I approve of Noel Hurley.

Stefan Molyneux, whose podcasts I've been promoting for a while, has a really great insight on forgiveness :

Forgiveness arises not from the will of the wronged, but only from the genuine contrition of the wrong-doer. Like health, it exists as an involuntary state, which depends on the actions of another. Obviously, you cannot have a loving – or even friendly – relationship with me if I wish you harm. If I harm you, it can only be through malice, ignorance or accident. If I am going to pick you up in a car, I can either pick you up, run you over on purpose, forget to show up, or hit you by accident. If I pick you up, all is well. If I run you over on purpose, all is not well. If I forget to show up, all may be well, since forgetfulness is a fact of life. If I hit you by accident, all may be well, since accidents also occur – unless this one was due to carelessness or drunkenness on my part.

If I run you over on purpose, then forgiveness is impossible. The purpose of forgiveness is not to repair the past, since that is impossible, but to repair the future. If I run you over because I am angry at you, how could you ever trust me again? Let’s say that I am so horrified by my own actions that I enter therapy and learn why I am so malevolent. Let’s say that I emerge from therapy a kinder, gentler person. In other words, I always had the capacity to stop being malevolent, but chose not to.

A healthy counter-point to the toxic forgiveness culture.

Post a Comment


At 1/15/2006 1:02 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

I agree that social pressure to forgive is a toxic element. I also agree that Molineaux's point is valid. I do think that his definition is too narrow, and I would restate as follows:

Forgiveness arises not from the will of the wronged, but from a clear and self-interested motivation to do so. Among these motivations are:

1. The genuine contrition of the wrong-doer. This might or might not be a sufficient motivating factor to secure forgiveness, depending on the perceived nature of the offense, and the mental state of the offended. It has been my observation that individuals seek justice until the crime is perpetrated against them, then they seek revenge.

2. Dispensational forgiveness. This would be similar to a judicial pardon. Key motivating factor is the improved mental state of the forgiver. This is the form that is overly promoted and abused by those who place social order above an individual's right to control their own destiny. As such, it is objectionable, but in proportion, it does play a role in everyday life. This form of forgiveness is also at the root of such ethical dilemmas as the man who breaks into a pharmacy to steal medicine that he can't afford to keep his daughter alive.

3. Noblesse oblige (rare). If I am a career criminal, and someone performs a criminal act against me, it is possible that, at my discretion, I will forgive that act. I will do this because, given the opportunity, I would have committed the same act against another.

In all of the cases above, there has to be some element that the forgiver decides is more important or valuable than the need for justice or revenge. I submit that the word “forgiveness” has degrees and nuances of meaning that make it better suited to a linguistic form of interpretation than a mathematical one. I also suggest that the concept of forgiveness is often confused with the concept of forgetting, or the concept of the reestablishment of trust. This confusion can often take place in the mind of the forgiver, caused by erroneous and contradictory belief systems that promote that confusion.

At 1/15/2006 1:10 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

On further reflection, #3 should have read, "If I am a career criminal or a politician..."

At 1/15/2006 3:40 PM, Blogger Boelf declaimed...

I find forgiveness a fairly nebulous concept. If I wrong you in some way I have made a statement and that statement can't be unmade.

So forgiveness is a matter or what the wronged decides to do about the wrong. So forgiveness might be the wronged forgoing revenge in some sense.

If I forget to pick you up as previously agreed I make a statement that my commitment to you was not as important as what else might be on my mind. Most people will let such a slight slide but it will color the relationship for some time to follow.

If I try to run you over that speaks to a vicious intent. Forgiveness is still possible and might take the form of not trying to kill me or not pressing charges. Regardless no words would make something like this go away.

At 1/15/2006 10:15 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I think the notion of forgiveness is fucked up. Victims of an evil act have no work to do about it. It is the attacker which must correct his behaviour.



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