, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 425-437

Kierkegaardian Implications of Punishment, Guilt, and Forgiveness for Education

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Abstract

Students have to be punished if they have made a serious transgression. Avoidance of punishment will lead to serious complications. But punishment is inseparably linked with guilt and forgiveness. The inability of individuals to forgive themselves was regarded by Kierkegaard to be an emanation of individual false pride, a kind of vanity. This type of despair, a psychological and spiritual disorder, is a serious and debilitating problem. The inability to escape this despair of forgiveness can lead to a loss of genuine humanness. Unchecked, this despair can lead to unrelatedness of self to itself and fear of the possibility of freedom. Thus the self-knowledge attainable in despair over the forgiveness of an offense would lead to what we would call a successful rehabilitation of the individual and his or her conjunct reintegration into society. Kierkegaard's ideas on punishment are interesting — historically and philosophically speaking — because they represent a softening of a harsh view of punishment by stressing the humanizing aspects of guilt and forgiveness.