Shannon Hoff's essay "The Right and the Righteous: Hegel on Confession, Forgiveness, and the Necessary Imperfection of Political Action", published in Phenomenology and Forgiveness, ed. Marguerite La Caze, is a necessary read, as profound in what kind of human beings, what kind of ethical and political being to enact in the world, as J. M. Bernstein's Dignity and Torture.
In the essay, Hoff works through the contemporary practical, moral and political importance of Hegel's final chapter of the section Spirit, "Conscience. The beautiful soul, evil and its forgiveness". She takes up the notions of moral action, judgment, forgiveness and their implications for moral and political action, without which political and moral ideas are mere abstractions, but which are always, inevitably, one-sided, invested, imperfect.
In a contemporary moment in which righteousness predominates, Hoff encourages us to see both the necessity and imperfection of action and the necessity and imperfection of criticism. In this context, we require both action and criticism, but action and criticism which are themselves open to being criticized in turn, that is, to communication and forgiveness.
I will not work through the entire essay, as it is not only important to work through Hoff's arguments for oneself, but I cannot in a brief note do justice to her engaging and elegant exposition of the ideas developed herein. It is enough to quote a paragraph that epitomizes the intellectual and ethical depth of the essay:
"The criticism that supplements and completes action, then, is not a matter of condemnation that distances the critic from the actor, but a matter of establishing solidarity through communication—it is precisely forgiveness. As we saw earlier, our actions, as necessarily one-sided and specific, do not unambiguously manifest the principle to which they aim to answer, and so they do not “speak for themselves” but require instead communication as a supplement. And communication, insofar as it is oriented toward revealing the principle that motivates action, can precisely lead to unexpected forms of identification. The “act” of an action can never, on its own, reveal the motivation of the agent, of which it is an expression. It is through struggling to understand the action on the agent’s own terms—struggling to appreciate the action and recognize the agent—that we get into a position in which meaningful criticism—criticism that would actually be meaningful to the agent and to what the agent was doing—becomes possible. Such an understanding, however, in as much as it is precisely a matter of “sympathizing” with the agent, simultaneously fosters an identification with the agent: it involves a recognition, in other words, that the agent’s actions make sense to us. Forgiveness is precisely this intertwining of criticism and identification." (p. 15)