Guilt, Atonement, and Forgiveness

Richard Swinburne

in Responsibility and Atonement

Published in print June 1989 | ISBN: 9780198248491
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598555 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

 Guilt, Atonement, and Forgiveness

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In doing a wrong action, an agent acquires guilt, subjective, or objective; guilt is to be distinguished from shame (as merit is to be distinguished from pride). A wrongdoer must deal with his guilt by making atonement—i.e. by repentance and apology to the victim, and (often also) by making reparation and penance. It is good (though not obligatory) for the victim to forgive a wrongdoer who has made some atonement, and that removes his guilt; but if the victim refuses to forgive despite substantial atonement, the wrongdoer's guilt disappears anyway. We have some responsibility to help others of our community to deal with their guilt—by encouraging them to apologize, and by helping them to make reparation—but we are not guilty for the wrong acts of anyone else.

Keywords: apology; Aquinas; atonement; community; forgiveness; guilt; Kant; pride; reparation; repentance; shame

Chapter.  9238 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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