The Power to Forgive Debts of Gratitude
Conférence par/Conference by Max Lewis (McGill University)
Quand/When : 8 décembre/december 8th, 2023 @ 15:00 – 17:00
Où/Where : Salle/Room: W-5305, 5e étage Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), UQAM (455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est)
Résumé/Abstract: It is a commonplace that benefactors do not have the normative power to forgive or waive debts of gratitude. I argue that this commonplace is mistaken. I argue that this normative power follows from the same considerations that support the existence of other normative powers (e.g., consent). In particular, having the power to waive debts of gratitude is necessary for the possibility of forging and maintaining the kinds of meaningful and minimally morally decent personal relationships that we value greatly. If we could not waive debts of gratitude, then we would not be able to forge and maintain such relationships. But, clearly, we can do this, so we must have the power to forgive debts of gratitude. I then argue that the canonical way of explaining why we have normative powers, plausibly explains why we have this power. The explanation is that we have an important interest in living autonomously, i.e., being able to be (part) author of our own lives by freely choosing from amongst various, diverse, and morally decent options without being coerced or manipulated.