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Failures of Forgiveness: What We Get Wrong and How to Do Better

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Event Details:

How should we recover from wrongdoing? Sages from Cicero to Oprah have told us that forgiveness requires us to let go of negative emotions and that it has a unique power to heal our wounds. In Failures of Forgiveness, Myisha Cherry argues that these beliefs couldn’t be more wrong—and that the ways we think about and use forgiveness, personally and as a society, can often do more harm than good. She presents a new understanding of forgiveness—one that moves us toward “radical repair.”

Cherry began exploring forgiveness after some relatives of the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, forgave what seemed unforgivable. She was troubled that many observers appeared to be more inspired by these acts of forgiveness than they were motivated to confront the racial hatred that led to the killings. We can forgive and still be angry; there can be good reasons not to forgive, and forgiving a wrong without tackling its roots solves nothing. Examining how forgiveness can go wrong in families, between friends, at work, and in the media, politics, and beyond, Cherry addresses forgiveness and race, canceling versus forgiving, self-forgiveness, and more. 

Myisha Cherry, Associate Professor of Philosophy, UC Riverside, and Director of the Emotion and Society Lab will be in conversation with Jennifer M.  Morton, Presidential Penn Compact Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania and 2023-24 SAGE Sara Miller McCune Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.

This event is sponsored by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University.

Please note that this event is in-person only, and RSVPs are requested to attend. Walk-ins are welcome. There will be a book signing after the event, and books will be available to purchase.

Speaker Bios:

Myisha Cherry is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, and the director of the Emotion and Society Lab. Her research is primarily concerned with the role of emotions and attitudes in public life. Cherry’s books include UnMuted: Conversations on Prejudice, Oppression, and Social Justice (Oxford University Press), co-edited with Owen Flanagan, The Moral Psychology of Anger (Rowman & Littlefield), and The Case for Rage: Why Anger is Essential to Anti-racist Struggle (Oxford University Press). Her latest book is Failures of Forgiveness: What We Get Wrong and How to Do Better (Princeton University Press). Her work on emotions and race has appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Los Angeles Times, Salon, and the Huffington Post.

Jennifer M. Morton is the Presidential Penn Compact Associate Professor of Philosophy with a secondary appointment at the School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a SAGE Sara Miller McCune Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Morton is interested in how poverty and social class affect our agency. She is currently working on a book on striving in the face of adversity with Sarah Paul (NYU Abu Dhabi) and a series of papers on precarity and poverty. Her book Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility (Princeton University Press, 2019) was awarded the Grawemeyer Award in Education and the Frederic W. Ness Book Award by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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