Hell Hath No Fury: The Place of Revenge in Moral Repair


  • Alice MacLachlan Associate Professor, York University




revenge, resentment, vindictive emotions, moral repair, sexual violence, #MeToo


Revenge is a powerful word. It can conjure up the scheming, embittered individual, plotting the downfall of his enemies well beyond reason and morality – or, more seriously, tragic cycles of violence and blood vendettas, spiraling into entrenched civil conflict over generations. Philosophers have argued that the consequences and the moral psychology of revenge mean it is incompatible – even antithetical – to any plausible conception of moral repair. In this paper I challenge that incompatibility by suggesting that, in contexts of unresponsive and imperfect institutional justice, appropriate acts of vengeance may both create accountability and express solidarity, thus contributing to moral repair. Drawing on past work by French (2001) and MacLachlan (2016), as well as two films with feminist avengers as protagonists, Hard Candy (2005) and Promising Young Woman (2021), I sketch an approach to virtuous third-party vengeance as a starting point for broader, more reparative, understandings of legitimate personal interventions after wrongdoing.


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