Every now and then, we meet the recommendation that the only way to find peace and quietness in our hearts and minds is to eventually forgive the offenders who have hurt us through their misdeeds.
I suppose one must have been through some nightmarish experience to tell first hand if the recommendation applies and if it works. Such isn't my case so I can not be assertive on that regard, yet I can imagine some victims finding peace only after they've killed themselves the murderer of their child for example.
As a matter of fact, there aren't that many cases where the issue arises but the rape or killing of children.
So I don't exactly discuss the veracity of the recommendation (let's call it a recommendation) but yet my attention was caught with a specific aspect of it and particularly in association with Kant's teaching re. morality.
And then I was looking for an image to illustrate the post and I immediately found that one and I knew I was on something.
I don't know who wrote the sentence in the frame (Ayn Rand?) but it seems indisputable that it posits a very selfish and egoistical basis to forgiveness. One may therefore question the morality of an action which is based solely on the pursuit of personal interest, whatever the circumstances.
Indeed, when we remember Kant' second formulation of the categorical imperative, we cannot but conclude that forgiving for the sake of our own peace of mind is contrary to the formula of humanity as exposed in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Moral.
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
Excerpt:A maxim is considered immoral if:
- its subjective content is such that it treats the humanity in oneself or others solely as a vehicle towards one's ends.
Now, it can be argued that the sentence isn't a maxim or the enunciation of a rule to follow, but merely the honest stating of the ultimate intent of forgiveness, that is treating the other as a means but not an end.
So, even if we forget Kant's theory of morality, I find it hard to deny that the end of forgiveness is basically selfish, selfish in the broadest sense of the word, yet selfish.
Finally, this little questioning may be an indication that morality isn't exactly easy to define nor are the criteria that can be useful in order to tell absolute right from absolute wrong in certain extreme circumstances.
Now, if you think all these meandrous Kantian talks about morality are irrelevant, just consider how it was discussed in an Israeli court 50 years ago.