Kimberly Goard

Kimberly Goard

PhD Student

By Megan Neff
Photos by Richie Wirewan

Forgiving may seem impossible at times, but Kimberly Goard, a philosophy graduate student at the University of Kentucky, urges us to do the seemingly impossible.

Since 2006, Goard has been working toward a Ph.D. in philosophy at UK. While she personally holds the issue in high regard, she feels its scope is universal because it affects everyone in a multitude of ways.

“Forgiveness involves a whole nexus of things that happen psychologically, socially and emotionally,” said Goard.

Goard opposes the popular view in philosophy today that the value of self-respect supersedes the obligation to forgive.

“In the vast majority of contemporary philosophical thought, forgiveness is thought to be something that contradicts the important value of self-respect. The idea is that there are some situations in which not forgiving is the only way for the victim to uphold his or her self-respect,” said Goard. “I don’t agree with that.”

In an attempt to more simply explain the phenomena occurring when someone faces the question of whether or not to forgive a wrongdoing, Goard makes a distinction between forgiveness and forgivingness.

“The former signifies the actual and positive emotional/cognitive/action changes in a victim towards his or her perceived offender while the latter suggests the possible virtuous response in a specific situation surrounding wrongdoing wherein one reflectively forgives or does not forgive,” said Goard.

Goard makes the claim that the virtue of forgivingness exists in two types: S and L. These types weigh the values of self-respect and love differently. By distinguishing between these two virtues, Goard can consider when it is reasonable for people with different values to forgive, or not to forgive.

“The distinction helps make sense of the moral value of the mental work a victim undergoes when he considers or tries to forgive his offender, but does not actually relinquish his negative feelings,” said Goard.

The path to UK was a winding one both literally and metaphorically for Goard. She began at Roanoke College in 1997, graduating in 2001 with a B.A. in Economics. In the fall of that year, she went to Liberty University to study music, but soon decided to switch to Philosophy.

“I love music, but I realized I could stay involved without a career in it,” said Goard. “Plus, I felt something was missing in my intellectual life. I only partially knew how to think for myself and how to ask the best questions about my assumptions concerning life.”

Goard transferred to Radford University in 2002 and earned a B.S. in Philosophy and Religious Studies. After Radford, she earned a Masters in Humanities at the University of Louisville in 2005 before arriving at UK in 2006.

More than anything, Goard regards her former philosophy professors as her best mentors. From Gary Habermas at Liberty, Kim Kipling at Radford, and Robert Kimball at U of L, to her current dissertation advisors, Anita Superson and David Bradshaw, she has learned as much if not more from their guidance as she has working through philosophical literature.

“I’ve been affected most by learning relationships with good teachers during my most formative years of philosophical training,” said Goard.

Ultimately Goard wants to follow the example of her mentors and teach interested students, especially at the undergraduate level, the life-changing skills that she acquired. In doing so, she wants her philosophical work to actively engage the world for the better.

“Philosophy should never be strictly done in an ivory tower, as many non-philosophers think it is; philosophy is about life,” said Goard. “I look forward to writing practical, accessible, and helpful philosophical works for everyday people, especially those in religious settings, so they can also reap some of the benefits of philosophical training.”

Goard’s work is sensible and sincere. From upholding a helpful position about the relationship of forgiveness, self-respect, and love, to patiently teaching introductory logic classes to an often less-than-enthusiastic audience, Goard inspires others to challenge the world around them as well as themselves.