LS 819:  Mercy and Regret: An Inquiry into the Nature of Forgiveness and Apologies

Fall 2016  | Dr. Gary McCarron

Course Description:

Forgiveness and apologies are repentant modes of action in which gestures of conciliation are used to draw boundaries between the past and the present, between wrongdoers and their victims, and between sin and redemption. These modes of repentant behaviors can assume either a secular or religious form; they can be part of commonplace conversations or highly ritualized expressions of contrition; and they can take on an intensely private or an extremely public character. Hence the study forgiveness and apologies must be broad in its scope and eclectic in its approach. Such is the case with this course. We will inquire into the meaning of forgiveness and the nature of apologies with particular attention to the historical and philosophical questions these topics raise. Illustrations will be drawn from a range of sources, authors, and perspectives that will include philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, and linguistics. We will follow specific lines of inquiry relating to apologetic and forgiving behavior as these are represented in the popular arts such as literature and cinema. In short, we will trace the nature of apologies, and the mystery of forgiveness across a varied and challenging intellectual landscape.

Required Texts:

  • Bennett, Christopher.  The Apology Ritual: A Philosophical Theory of Punishment.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008
  • Celemajer, Danielle.  The Sins of the Nation and the Ritual of Apologies.  Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Derrida, Jacque.  On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness.  New York and London: Routledge University Press, 2001.
  • Holloway, Richard. On Forgiveness. Edinburgh and London: Canongate Books, 2015.
  • Lazare, Aaron.  On Apology.   Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Minow, Martha.  Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence.  Boston: Beacon Books, 1998.
  • Murphy, Jeffrie.  Forgiveness and Mercy.  Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Nussbaum, Martha. Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Regan, Paulette.  Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada.  Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2010.
  • Tavuchis, Nicholas.  Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliation.  Stanford California, Stanford University Press, 1991.
  • Tutu, Desmond.  No Future Without Forgiveness.  New York: Doubleday Books, 1999.

Recommended Texts**

  • Govier, Trudy. Forgiveness and Revenge. London and New York: Routledge Books, 2002.
  • Murphy, Jeffrie. Getting Even: Forgiveness and its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Murphy, Jeffrie. Punishment and the Moral Emotions: Essays in Law, Morality, and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Schapp, Andrew. Political Reconciliation. London and New York: Routledge Books, 2005.
  • Smith, Nick. I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Smith, Nick. Justice Through Apologies: Remorse, Reform, and Punishment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    **Please note:  Only required texts will be ordered from the SFU Bookstore