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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    FORGIVENESS

    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.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-14-2020 at 01:12 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Formerly Joedad
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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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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    forgiveness is a warm felt blanket given to/by someone for comfort. Works on feelings, warming them.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    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?

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    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.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    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).
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-15-2020 at 08:18 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    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).

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post

    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.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-15-2020 at 09:52 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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