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Episode 101: Miranda Fricker discusses blame and forgiveness

This month, Emily and Matt chat with Miranda Fricker (CUNY Graduate Center) about blame and forgiveness. Click here to listen to our conversation.

We have a lot of conflicting feelings about blame. When someone does something bad, we feel a strong urge to blame them, and when it all goes down as intended, the person deserves the blame, and they learn that what they did was wrong, we intuitively feel that justice has been done. On the other hand, we also have the sense that blaming can be a corrosive or self-destructive activity–a feeling that is manifested in common expressions like ‘let’s not play the blame game.’ So what’s the deal? Is blaming people a useful activity or isn’t it?

Miranda Fricker proposes that we enter into these questions by thinking carefully about what blaming is. What is the intended social function of blaming? And here she suggests that paradigmatically, blame is a kind of communicative act. Furthermore, thinking of blame in that way sets us up to explain some of the more perplexing features of related behavior, such as forgiving.

Join us as our guest walks us through the point of blaming and forgiving people!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Podcast.


One Response

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  1. Tim Smith says

    I always enjoy Elucidations, and this one was especially nice. I just shared it on Facebook with a few thoughts:

    Enjoyable discussion on blame and forgiveness. When are they healthy and how do they go wrong? Blame can signal social norms and span everything from a subtle frown to toxic resentment and revenge. Proportionate blame seems useful or good, disproportionate blame (too much or too little) seems problematic.

    Fricker observes that preemptive forgiveness can function like blame to elicit a change in behavior. But primarily forgiveness is for the sake of the forgiver’s well being, and its appropriateness is not necessarily dependent on the attitude of the one being forgiven. This has me thinking again, with a bit more traction, about the members of the Emanuel AME church in Charleston.

    May we blame each other proportionately, and forgive at the appropriate time.



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