Friday, February 9, 2024

Poetic justice

If you try to con someone out of their money by proposing a complex scheme to them, and then you make a mistake in your calculations and end up having to give them a lot of money, that’s poetic justice.

  1. Poetic justice is always justice.

  2. Instances of justice are always the intentional work of a person.

  3. Some instances of poetic justice are not the intentional work of any human person.

  4. So, there exists a non-human person.

And God is the best candidate.


Josh said...

What reasons are there to believe 2?

Alexander R Pruss said...

a. Justice is a virtue.
b. It's only justice when the penalty is imposed because of the misdeed.

Electrical Apologist said...

Could we simply say that "poetic justice" is just a term we use to describe random outcomes that appear to be justice? Why assume premise 1?

Walter Van den Acker said...

Electrical Apologist

Yes, that would be correct. Because obviously, there are other possible outcomes that do not appear to be justice at all. In lots of cases , the con succeeds.If Alex is correct, that would also be justice.

Josh said...

@Alexander R Pruss

I'm skeptical of b. It seems to me that what is sufficient for justice is the penalty being imposed not the penalty being imposed because of the misdeed. If we mean justice in the ordinary sense of "getting what they deserve", then personal intention becomes irrelevant.

B. is also consistent with the denial of 2. Suppose that the act of a person's misdeed necessarily entailed a causal sequence of a finite number of events which led to them getting what they deserved for that particular misdeed. Let's also stipulate that the causal sequence was devoid of any intentional work of a person. It follows that the penalty they receive is imposed because of the misdeed while no intentional work of a person is present.

Also, is a. implying that only persons can instantiate a virtue and that therefore only persons can instantiate justice?

Alexander R Pruss said...

It's not justice if a murderer is sentenced to prison because of their race rather than because of their crime.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

I agree with that statement. I believe it is justice if they are sentenced to prison but unjust if they are sentenced BECAUSE of their race since they don't deserve imprisonment based on their race but rather their crime. Still, even in this case, the imprisonment itself is justice because that is what they deserve. By your logic, it seems that this individual would have to serve a second sentence after the first since in the first one justice was not established.

Alexander R Pruss said...



I wonder how the law would look at this. Suppose Alice is convicted of beating up Bob and serves several months in jail due to a racist judge. She is then rightly exonerated. But then we immediately find out that she really did beat up Carl. Should she serve several months in jail for that?

I would say not that she has already paid her debt, but that after her unjust imprisonment, society owes her a debt. And then when she is rightly convicted of beating up Carl, that debt that society owes her can finally be paid. So she can be sentenced to several months in jail, which are then canceled by the debt that society owes her, and then both she and society are free and clear. But she has genuinely lost something through this canceled transaction--she has lost the right to compensation for the initial injustice.

Josh said...

Hmmm, that makes sense!

I think I was hesitant to accept 2. because it seemed to me that one's psychological state (i.e., intentions) could change the intrinsic nature of a situation, namely, whether or not justice occurred.

That seemed odd to me but perhaps that's not what's going on.

Btw, as someone who isn't a philosopher I've deeply appreciated your work, especially in Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics.

Thank you for being so generous with your time!