Philosophy and Literature 36 (1):1-16 (2012)

Scott Forschler
University of Minnesota
Despite its common use in both literature and popular discourse, the concept of “poetic justice” in which a wrong-doer is harmed by his own crimes has been completely ignored by both literary and philosophical scholars. We can learn more about it by comparing its charms to those of its more popular cousin, revenge. Each can assuage our resentment at the wrong-doer’s contempt of human suffering, promises to teach a moral lesson, and can borrow some moral justification from the golden rule. Their satisfactions are often deceptive, but it behooves us to understand the attractions of each.
Keywords poetic justice  revenge  punishment  resentment  Adam Smith
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DOI 10.1353/phl.2012.0021
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