In Catherine E. Hundleby (ed.), Reasonable Responses: The Thought of Trudy Govier. pp. 129-148 (2017)

Alice MacLachlan
York University
Trudy Govier offers a sweeping moral critique of revenge, arguing that even non-violent, limited, acts of revenge are wrong, insofar as they necessarily treat the target as an instrument of the revenger’s satisfaction (offending against respect for persons) and thus morally diminish the revenger. I challenge Govier’s critique by broadening her account of revenge, focusing in particular on its communicative complexities. Revenge aims to address rather than use its target, I argue, for the revenger to be satisfied. It is plausibly described as a kind of forcible persuasion, in which the revenger aims to convince her target of the target’s moral desert and the revenger’s moral authority. Nevertheless, the unilateral nature of this address and the morally simplistic worldview on which it depends present significant (and likely fatal) moral risks to any project of vengeance.
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