Love's Forgiveness: Kierkegaard, resentment, humility, and hope

John Lippitt

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book combines a discussion of the nature and ethics of forgiveness with a discussion - inspired by Kierkegaard - of the implications of considering interpersonal forgiveness as a ‘work of love’. It introduces the reader to some key questions that have exercised recent philosophers of forgiveness, discussing the relationship between forgiveness and an extended notion of resentment; considering whether forgiveness should be ‘conditional’ or ‘unconditional’ (showcasing a particular understanding of the latter); and arguing that there are legitimate forms of ‘third party’ forgiveness. It then introduces the idea of forgiveness as a work of love through a discussion of Kierkegaard, key New Testament passages on forgiveness, and some recent work on the philosophy of love. Drawing on both philosophy and the New Testament, it offers an understanding of forgiveness that incorporates both agapic love and a proper concern for justice. The book explores religious and secular uses of key metaphors for forgiveness, and the idea of ‘forgivingness’ as a virtue. It suggests that seeking to correct for various cognitive biases is key to the development of such a virtue, and connects it to other virtues, such as humility and hope. It draws on both Kierkegaard’s ‘discourse literature’ and contemporary philosophical work on these latter characteristics, before turning to a discussion of the nature of self-forgiveness. Throughout the book, the philosophical and theological literature is rooted in a discussion of various ‘forgiveness narratives’, including Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking, Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger’s South of Forgiveness, and Ian McEwan’s Atonement.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISBN (Print)9780198861836
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2020


  • Love
  • Forgiveness
  • Kierkegaard
  • Virtues
  • Agape
  • Justice
  • Character
  • Humility
  • Hope
  • Self-forgiveness


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