The Possibility of Preemptive Forgiving

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This essay defends the possibility of preemptive forgiving, that is, forgiving before the offending action has taken place. This essay argues that our moral practices and emotions admit such a possibility, and it attempts to offer examples to illustrate this phenomenon. There are two main reasons why someone might doubt the possibility of preemptive forgiving. First, one might think that preemptive forgiving would amount to granting permission. Second, one might think that forgiving requires emotional content that is not available prior to wrongdoing. If, however, preemptively forgiving is genuinely possible—as this essay hopes to illustrate—then this fact has implications for our understanding of both relational normativity and the nature of forgiveness.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty. This is an author-accepted manuscript which has undergone peer review. The final publisher's version can be found at Cornell, Nicolas. "The Possibility of Preemptive Forgiving." Phil. Rev. 126, no. 2 (2017): 241-72. DOI: