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Let's say someone had an epiphony and stopped believing in their liberal ways. This person suddenly realized the errors of his/her ways, and truely decided to change their life around in a conservative/libertarian/objectivist method. Is it possible to achieve redemption?

asked Dec 23 '11 at 09:28

Collin1's gravatar image


According to Objectivism, the person didn't realize the error of his ways if he's simply going from liberal to libertarian.

(Dec 23 '11 at 15:17) CrownOfTheVirtues ♦ CrownOfTheVirtues's gravatar image

I don't really like the example. Forgiveness regards transgressions, not ideas as such. If you have some terrible ideas, but never act on them, then there is nothing to forgive.

But if there are transgressions, then redemption (the earning of rational forgiveness) requires restitution to those you have harmed, and an explicit and honest rejection of any choice to act similarly in the future.

(Dec 26 '11 at 22:54) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

If you mean "believe in" in the sense of regarding forgiveness per se as morally virtuous, then the short answer is a flat No. But it is important to understand why.

Forgiveness is not a moral virtue because it would often mean violating something which is a moral virtue: justice. Forgiveness may or not be appropriate in any given case because it may or may not have been earned: it would be unjust to grant forgiveness to someone who has not earned it, and it would be unjust to withhold forgiveness from someone who has earned it. (Exactly how to earn forgiveness and how to know someone has earned it are interesting topics in their own right.)

In short, the important thing is to strive to be guided by genuine moral virtues. Here, one should focus on the virtue of justice, forgiving always and only when justice demands it.

answered Dec 23 '11 at 18:04

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

edited Dec 23 '11 at 18:05

It's worth noting, here, that the traditional Christian view of forgiveness is an act of ignoring a transgression -- in other words, to act as if a person is, in fact, not guilty of wrongdoing.

This pretense about a person's bad actions is precisely what the virtue of justice is not.

Proper forgiveness is the objective recognition that a person is, in fact, no longer guilty -- that they've paid restitution, that they are contrite about their past wrongdoing, and that they don't show any sign of repeating the offense.

Proper forgiveness is an instance of justice.

(Dec 26 '11 at 22:28) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

It depends on what you've done, but if you haven't transgressed, say, on the level of murder, you can reformulate your character for the better and earn forgiveness from yourself and others. Forgiveness, however, requires long-term evaluation, again from yourself as well as others, so you can't earn it by pure conscious commitment. Other people have to judge your actions and can't read your mind, and even though you can, you'll have more confidence in your newly found convictions once you have actually lived by them.

answered Dec 23 '11 at 15:12

CrownOfTheVirtues's gravatar image

CrownOfTheVirtues ♦

Since the question is in regard to Ayn Rand's position on forgiveness, her writing seems the appropriate place to go for an answer. Perhaps the most poignant scene in Atlas Shrugged is when Reardan carries The Wet Nurse out of the slag heap. Clearly, he has forgiven the young man for his earlier positions.

Productive living entails learning and growth throughout. While one's past positions are important, they are generally of less import than current actions and beliefs.

answered Dec 24 '11 at 09:20

ethwc's gravatar image

ethwc ♦


To keep things simple, I will focus on forgiveness of self. It should be easy to extrapolate the forgiveness of others.

Self-forgiveness is used to get rid of guilt. Guilt is created when we violate a belief. Sometimes guilt can be made to go away when we project it onto another. This is a form of evasion.

Guilt's purpose is to get us to think through and figure out why we violated our belief and correct it. Sometime the belief that we have is irrational and the correction is to get rid of that belief. An example of a irrational belief is "we're not supposed to be gay".I Often, the reason why we violate our belief is due to fear or our refusal to accept reality for what it is. Usually, there is a long chain of cause and effects that lead us to violate our beliefs. Let use the following scenario as a case study:

A man goes to Hooters with his friends. He comes home and lies to his wife saying that he went to Applebees. He has violated the virtue of honesty. He may evade it by saying that he is lying to "protect his wife". He may evade it by blaming his wife for being an irrational woman and he's just trying to keep the peace.

The correct approach is to analyze the chain of cause and effect which begins with the question of "Why did he lie?" The answer is that he is afraid of his wife. More specifically, he doesn't believe his wife trusts him to be monogamous (assuming that this is what they agreed to). Whether this is true or not is beside the point. The question is, why is he in a relationship with someone who doesn't trust him? Did he do something in the past to create the lack of trust (e.g., by lying about other things)? Is she truly irrational? If she is, why is he with her? Is he truly happy being in a relationship with someone who doesn't trust him at Hooters?

The exact path that the chain of cause & effect follows is very dependent upon the context (e.g., the actual relationship). However, it is only by traveling down this chain can we discover why we do what we do and fix the problem at the root. Only then can we be free of our guilt. At that point, self forgiveness is no longer necessary.

It's important that we look for evidence base in reality when we making an assumption as to what an intermediary cause is. Otherwise we run the risk of making mistakes, come to the wrong conclusion and fail to fix the root cause.

Toyota uses something similar to this to eliminate defects from their manufacturing process. It's called the 5 Whys.

answered Dec 24 '11 at 04:14

Humbug's gravatar image


edited Dec 26 '11 at 02:27

Your answer is very helpful, particularly bout accepting forgiveness. I'm still drilling down.

(Dec 25 '11 at 06:25) Phyllis Rowland Phyllis%20Rowland's gravatar image

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Asked: Dec 23 '11 at 09:28

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Last updated: Dec 26 '11 at 22:54