Forgiveness and Revenge
Bernhardt, Fabian – 2020
Human agency goes hand in hand with fallibility. The capability to act inevitably involves the capability for wrongdoing. People hurt each other—sometimes intentionally, often without bad faith—and treat each other in unjust ways. The intersection between agency and vulnerability—the point where one subject gets negatively affected by the unjust action of another subject—thus can be conceived of as the existential and affective ground from which both the desire for revenge and the longing for forgiveness emerge. In modern societies, revenge has a bad image. Understood as an outburst of uncontrolled individual passions, blind, dysfunctional and excessively violent, revenge seems to contradict everything modernity stands for—particularly its establishment of legal procedures based on the ideas of impartiality and dispassionate reason. In fact, forgiveness and revenge can both be regarded as genuine borderline cases of emotion.