Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Anita Superson

Second Advisor

Dr. David Bradshaw


In the last few decades, some scholars have questioned the moral value of forgiveness. They have argued that in order for a victim to preserve his self-respect, to not condone the wrongdoing, and to avoid unjustly pardoning the offender, he must consider forgiving only after the offender has satisfied specific conditions that have been demanded of him. Forgiveness, they claim, is morally permissible only when it is given conditionally. Unconditional forgiveness cannot be virtuous.

This dissertation addresses the issues surrounding this claim. I argue that Forgivingness, which is the virtue associated with forgiving, causes its possessor to reliably offer unconditional forgiveness to every person who offends him. Further, I contend that instances of forgiveness, arising from or contributing to the development of this virtue, are never morally impermissible even though their moral quality may not be ideal.

To support my thesis, I develop a model of Forgivingness that represents it as a multi-faceted virtue of cognitive, affective, motivational, and action components that, independently of the actions and attitudes of the offender, produce unilateral, unconditional forgiveness. I describe Forgivingness’s dependency on the characteristic of moral love—a quality that values an offender’s ultimate moral good and ideal self, displays good will towards him, and assimilates the virtue of self-forgetfulness into the possessor’s deliberations, desires, and actions—and explain the virtue’s relationship to ancillary or homologous emotions including hope, humility, magnanimity, and anger.

I then defend the forgiveness that multi-faceted Forgivingness produces against criticisms that are commonly levied against unconditional forgiveness. In doing so, I reinforce a theme that runs throughout the entire work—that is, that virtuous forgiveness is distinct from minimal forgiveness. When relevant, I show the weaknesses in minimal forgiveness so as to emphasize the moral strength and beauty of virtuous forgiveness. Further, I distinguish virtuous forgiveness from forgetting, reconciliation, and excuse-making and explain how it can be compatible with disciplining the offender. Consequently, I demonstrate why virtuous forgiveness that is given according to my model of the virtue is immune to the criticisms that may be relevant to other forms of forgiveness.