Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Linda Radzik's "Making Amends"

Linda Radzik is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Making Amends: Atonement in Morality, Law, and Politics, and reported the following:
If you open Making Amends to page 99, you find a discussion of the various ways in which the giving of a gift can help to repair a relationship in the aftermath of wrongdoing. It can communicate an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a feeling of remorse to the victim. The effort put into providing the gift and the act of giving it can help the wrongdoer induce genuine repentance in herself, better remember the wrong in the future, and so avoid a repetition of the wrong. It can symbolically compensate for a harm that is not literally compensable (such as hurt feelings). None of these claims about the value of apologetic gift-giving is particularly surprising. What is distinctive about Making Amends is instead the question it asks about apologetic gifts.

When philosophers think about the aftermath of wrongdoing, they usually take the point of view of either a victim or a judge. They ask whether the victim should forgive or how the judge should punish. In contrast, Making Amends takes the point of view of the wrongdoer. The question is what one ought to do to right one’s own wrongs.

Whereas traditional discussions of atonement ask how amends can be made to God, this book is concerned with the responses we owe to one another. Whereas many equate atonement with suffering, I argue for a non-retributive account that focuses on the reconciliation of relationships. Not all relationships can be repaired through the giving of a gift, but the crucial tasks of atonement are those mentioned on page 99: respectful communication with the victim, the moral improvement of the wrongdoer, and the reparation of harm.
Learn more about Making Amends at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue