We often talk about showing mercy or forgiving those who have harmed us as something noble, praiseworthy, perhaps even necessary or required in order to behave well. But this has by no means always been the case: the ancient Romans, for example, often saw the bestowal of mercy or clemency as a sign of tyranny and despotism, and they had some good reasons for doing so. By taking some historical perspective on these issues, in this walk we’ll aim to deepen our own understanding of the scope, limits, benefits, and dangers of mercy, clemency, and forgiveness.
After briefly clarifying what we mean by mercy, forgiveness, and clemency, we’ll consider their practice, from the vantage points both of the person who is forgiven, and the person who extends that forgiveness.
First, what is it like to be the recipient of mercy or forgiveness?When, how, under what conditions is it good or bad for us to be on the receiving end of an act of clemency or mercy? In what ways can being forgiven be beneficial or harmful to us? What new duties or obligations might we have toward a person who has extended mercy or forgiveness to us?
Second, what is it like to be the giver of mercy or forgiveness?How does extending, or withholding, forgiveness change our own character in good, bad, or (most likely) very mixed, complex ways?
Along the way, we’ll consider some of the complicated ways that forgiveness and mercy interact with other values and virtues:
Can personal forgiveness, or judicial clemency, co-exist with justice? Or does “letting go” of a penalty that’s owed to us entail giving up on the virtue of justice?
When, if at all, can there be a duty to forgive? Is forgiveness something that can be required, or is it something “above and beyond” any requirement or command?
Who gets to decide when mercy or clemency is appropriate, and when it isn’t? And what does that say about our social and interpersonal relations, and the prospects for equality or inequality between people, as individuals and in society?
Philosophy Walk: Mercy & Forgiveness
w/ philosopher David Nowakowski
When & Where
This walk led by philosopher David Nowakowski will take place on Saturday, September 23rd at Mt. Helena Trailhead.
RSVP: Click here! Cost: Free (Donations Welcome) Other: Bring comfortable walking shoes, water & a snack
David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives. David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since. A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014. His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & West, Asian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy, as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere.
After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.
You will receive a confirmation of your RSVP shortly after you register via e-mail. As the walk date approaches, we will contact you with any additional relevant information. If you do NOT receive an e-mail shortly after registering, please contact [email protected].
For those who have not been on our walks before, you can get a feel for our walks and what they’re all about by visiting our walk archive page. In the meantime, here is a logistical snapshot.
Here is a general overview of what you can expect on our Philosophy Walks:
Free to the Public (donations welcome/appreciated)
3 hour walks (opportunities for rest along the way)
Casual, positive & supportive experience
1-2 walk guides
Small group sizes (generally 7-15 people; may be larger for special occasion walks)
Ample opportunity to enjoy nature
To get the most out of your experience with us and enjoy a healthy & safe walk, please bring with you on the day of the walk/hike:
Our philosophy walks are free to the community. While donations are never expected, they are always appreciated and help to keep programs like these going. Your tax-deductible donations help to cover honorariums, logistics, materials, implementation, resource archiving, and more! For those facing more challenging financial circumstances, we ask that you please try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness for your neighbors and community. If you’d like to make a donation you can do so here (or the button above) anytime or in person on the day of the walk.