The Moral Burdens and Obligations of Perpetrators

Claudia Card

in The Atrocity Paradigm

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780195145083
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833115 | DOI:
 The Moral Burdens and Obligations of Perpetrators

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Perpetrators of atrocities carry burdens of guilt and incur obligations to apologize and repair harm. Mercy from victims is not only a power to relieve punishment or blame but also a compassionate response that allows perpetrators to carry out responsibilities of reparation and apology, which in turn enable them to manifest goodwill and develop trustworthiness. Mercy and the gratitude that it naturally evokes thus have the potential to substitute mutually reinforcing goodwill for past ill will, provided that mercy can be shown compatibly with justice and self‐respect. As a response to one's own evildoing, guilt has an advantage over shame in that although shame can motivate achievements that restore self‐esteem, guilt can also motivate rectification of wrongs to others, which not only supports the rectifier's self‐esteem but also can alleviate victims’ resentment. Contrary to the popular view of guilt as simply negative (and thereby perverse), guilt can manifest itself in such constructive responses as confession, contrition, apology, restitution, and reparation, which actually relieve negative self‐judgment.

Keywords: apology; goodwill; gratitude; guilt; injustice; mercy; obligations; perpetrators; shame; trustworthiness

Chapter.  11049 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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