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Forgiveness and Identification

Scarre, Geoffrey

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Geoffrey Scarre


Philosophical discussion of forgiveness has mainly focused on cases in which victims and offenders are known to each other. But it commonly happens that a victim brings an offender under a definite description (e.g. ‘the boy who kicked his football through my window’) but does not know to which individual this applies. I explore some of the conceptual and moral issues raised by the phenomenon of forgiveness in circumstances in which identification is incomplete, tentative or even mistaken. Among the conclusions reached are that correct and precise identification of the offending individual is not essential for forgiveness to take place; that an offender can, under certain strict conditions, be said to be forgiven by proxy where the victim has misidentified the offender and ‘forgiven’ the wrong person; and that proxy forgiveness of this sort is not subject to the objections commonly levelled against ‘proxy’ or ‘third-party forgiveness.’


Scarre, G. (2016). Forgiveness and Identification. Philosophia, 44(4), 1021-1028.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 11, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 22, 2016
Publication Date Dec 1, 2016
Deposit Date Aug 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Aug 15, 2016
Journal Philosophia
Print ISSN 0048-3893
Electronic ISSN 1574-9274
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 4
Pages 1021-1028


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (235 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © The Author(s) 2016 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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