Source: (2006) Metaphilosophy. 37(3-4): 489–514.

The most contentious aspect of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concerned its amnesty-granting powers. In return for perpetrators providing full disclosure about their crimes, the TRC was authorized to release them from both criminal responsibility and civil liability. This essay takes up the thorny question of how such a commission might be morally justified. Part 1 discusses the political circumstances that led to the creation of the TRC. Part 2 provides a critical survey of some previous attempts to justify the commission’s work. Part 3 offers a new justification, grounded in Adam Smith’s notion of sympathy; after outlining some of the benefits of sympathy for political reconciliation, I argue that the work of a South African–style truth commission can promote sympathy between former enemies. (Author's abstract)