Original Articles

Forgiveness and Mercy

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 27, issue 1, 2008 , pages: 1–9
DOI: 10.4314/sajpem.v27i1.31497
Author(s): Lucy AllaisPhilosophy Department University of the Witwatersrand PO Wits, South Africa


This paper argues that forgiveness is not best understood in terms of waiving a requirement of justice, and, specifically, that forgiveness is distinct from mercy. I question some reasons philosophers have given for distinguishing forgiveness and mercy, but argue that the difference between the two notions can be clearly shown by considering the standard grounds for which they are granted. I argue that while mercy involves leniency in the infliction of punishment that is due in accordance with justice, forgiveness primarily concerns the victim’s feelings and attitudes towards the wrongdoer as a person.

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