Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Philosophy Dept.


Lydia Moland

Second Advisor

Tarja Raag


The common saying forgive and forget does not do justice to the deep understanding we can gain of ourselves and of others by pursing genuine forgiveness. Philosophers Charles Griswold and Margaret Holmgren propose two models of forgiveness that differ in terms of how we should view our humanity. Griswold suggests that the foundation of genuine forgiveness is recognizing that we are all fallible human beings while Holmgren suggests that our being human makes us all worthy of respect. Both Griswold and Holmgren focus primarily on cases of interpersonal forgiveness and give significantly less attention to cases of self-forgiveness. The lack of attention paid to self-forgiveness is one reason why I decided to focus on it for my thesis; however, I am also very interested in the psychological implications for not forgiving oneself. Living in extreme guilt and shame is not only incredibly difficult to experience, but also incredibly difficult to pull oneself out of. The aim of my thesis is to present all of the complexities of self-forgiveness and then determine which model best suites cases of self-forgiveness. I propose that neither model should be followed exactly as they stand now. I instead suggest that Adam Smiths impartial spectator is a potential option for improving the process of self-forgiveness. More specifically, I think that he impartial spectator helps to overcome the following three critiques of Griswolds and Holmgrens models: 1) Griswold relies too heavily on circumstances; 2) Griswold overestimates the power that the victim has on the offenders peace of mind; and 3) Holmgren relies on a version of the self that cannot be upheld.


Forgiveness, Self-forgivenss, Griswold, Holmgren, Impartial spectator

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