The Fragility of Forgiveness. Supererogatory Goals for a Restorative Approach to Conflict Management

Di Simone Grigoletto

In: Philosophical Insights for a Theory of Restorative Justice XLVIII , No. 2 ( 2019 )

Sezione Saggi / Articles


What is the purpose of restorative justice? Analyzing different definitions, recommendations, and guidelines regarding restorative practices indicates that the answer to this question is not necessarily clear. In this paper, my starting point is the definition of conflict in relational terms. Specifically, the harm brought about by a conflictual event generates different kinds of relational fractures between the parties involved. I hold that if we consider the core premises of a restorative process, we have to acknowledge a specific focus on the relational equilibrium between the parties involved in the harm. In these terms, restoring ultimately means taking care of the relation that has been damaged in order to put things as right as possible. Accordingly, forgiveness is mostly considered a desirable side effect of these restorative practices. In contrast, striving for forgiveness to occur is not an obligatory task of those involved in the process (victims, wrongdoers, or practitioners). In moral philosophical terms, this is a clear case of supererogation, a theoretical concept that describes acts considered morally good but not morally obligatory. In this paper, I aim to provide some philosophical insights to support the claim that forgiveness (mostly offered by those who have been affected by the harm) is not a primary goal of restorative practices but a supererogatory one.