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Jessica Isserow (University of Leeds): ‘The Possibility of Moral Redemption’
16 January, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Abstract: Many moral wrongs fade into the past, leaving their agents free to move on from them. But others have a curious sort of staying power; they seem to stubbornly stick with their agents, despite the reparative steps that they’ve taken and the personal progress that they’ve made, affecting how others appraise and treat them in turn. In this paper, I argue that such treatment of behalf of others is not always wrong (and may in fact be justified), even when a wrongdoer’s misconduct lies quite some distance in their past, and they’ve since undergone significant character change. Yet this carries a troubling implication; for moral redemption plausibly requires not merely the satisfaction of certain internal criteria (on behalf of wrongdoers), but something external (on behalf of victims and the community) as well. The tragic conclusion is that moral redemption may simply be unavailable to certain people—even morally upstanding ones—without them having been wronged. More tragic still is that this may sometimes come down to moral luck.
Jessica Isserow is an Associate Professor in Moral and Political Philosophy at the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds. Her main research interests are in metaethics, normative ethics, and moral psychology.
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