David Silver

Associate Professor

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Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
Unbreak my heart : blame and forgiveness in personal relationships (2020)

Personal relationships are rich, complex, and valuable to our lives; yet, they have been largely overlooked by philosophers. This dissertation therefore hopes to highlight the importance of this neglected territory through exploring blame and forgiveness in personal relationships. Chapter 1 argues that blame in personal relationships (i) is often and should be affective and (ii) often involves and should involve a rich set of emotions—not just anger, but also disappointment, sadness, and hurt feelings. In non-personal relationships, blame (iii) need not involve any affect and (iv) it involves a narrow set of emotions if it is affective. Recognizing the relationship dependency of blame, this chapter proposes a minimal general account of blame: blame is a response to relational harm. Chapter 2 argues that understanding the interpersonal aspect of forgiveness is key to any adequate understanding of forgiveness, particularly forgiveness in personal relationships. An adequate account of forgiveness should be able to explain three interpersonal features of forgiveness: that it is communicative, reconciliatory, and performative. Chapter 3 then proposes a performative account of forgiveness—forgiveness as a declarative act that unbreaks relationships. This account focusses on and can adequately explain the three features and hence the interpersonal aspect of forgiveness. Discussion of blame and forgiveness may make it seem as though these were the primary appropriate responses to wrongs, but relationships—particularly personal ones—may give us reason to neither blame nor forgive the wrongdoer. They may instead give us reason to prioritize maintaining the relationship or supporting the wrongdoer. Chapter 4 discusses such reasons from relationships, which enable us to appreciate the richness, depth, and complexity of personal relationships. Withholding blame for the above reasons from relationships does not necessarily express disrespect for oneself (the victim) or the wrongdoer, contrary to the arguments given by some blame (and forgiveness) theorists. Chapter 5 proposes a broader understanding of respect, according to which withholding blame because of such reasons is a positive way to express respect.

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