I’m a regular reader of Ethics Alarms. Jack, the blogger there, is a great deal more conservative than I, although I think he might describe himself as a centrist. But he posts opinions I find unpredictable now and then (Jack’s pro-equal marriage but thought Justice Walker should have recused himself from the Prop 8 case, for example), and I enjoy the unpredictability. I also enjoy the way that his irascibility, compared to my prissiness, makes me feel like Felix Unger.
Anyway, recently Jack wrote and posted a taxonomy of apologies, which appealed to the nerd in me. Here’s the list (with Jack’s kind permission).
Here is the hierarchy of apologies, their function and their motivation, 1-10, from most admirable to despicable:
1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.
2. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s legitimate and defensible action caused unanticipated, excessive, or unnecessary harm to a particular party or parties. The apology expresses a sincere regret that the harm occurred.
3. An apology motivated by a desire to accept accountability for an event or occurrence that one may not have caused, but was responsible for in some way.
4. A spontaneous and apology intended to demonstrate compassion and sympathy for the victim or victims of the unavoidable consequences of a necessary action.
5. A spontaneous apology designed to prevent future, preventable harm by expressing regret that a past action was necessary or that it occurred at all.
6. A forced or compelled version of 1-4, when the individual apologizing knows that an apology is appropriate but would have avoided making one if he or she could have gotten away with it.
7. A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual apologizing may not believe that an apology is appropriate, but that shows the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent.
8. A forced apology for a rightful or legitimate act, in capitulation to bullying, fear, threats, desperation or other coercion
9. Deceitful apologies,in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”).
10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.
Almost immediately after I read this, Jack and I got into an argument about Rush Limbaugh’s recent apology to Ms Fluke, which Jack rated a 7 but I thought was a 9.
There are more explanations and examples in Jack’s full post.