Schadenfreude: Doctor Feser Illustrates When it is Permissible

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Language advisory as to the above video due to foul mouthed liberals.

Philosopher Edward Feser takes a look at schadenfreude:


Bill Vallicella asks: Is there a righteous form of schadenfreude?  The Angelic Doctor appears to answer in the affirmative.  Speaking of the knowledge that the blessed in heaven have of the damned, Aquinas famously says:

It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge”…

Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked…

A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways.  First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.  Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.  And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

End quote.  So, the idea is this: On the one hand, the suffering of a person is not as such something to rejoice in, for suffering, considered just by itself, is an evil and, as Aquinas goes on to say, “to rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred.”  However, there can be something “annexed” to the suffering which is a cause for rejoicing.  For example, if we are able to develop a virtue like patience by way of suffering, that is something to rejoice in, and thus in an indirect way the suffering can in that case legitimately be a cause of rejoicing.  But another sort of thing which can be annexed to a person’s suffering is justice, as when a person suffers some harm as a deserved punishment.  And someone’s getting his just deserts is in Aquinas’s view something to rejoice in.  Hence, Aquinas concludes, in an indirect way the suffering of the wicked can be something to rejoice in.

This is in Aquinas’s view true even when the suffering is eternal, if that is what is deserved.  Indeed, he judges that the joy of the blessed would be incomplete without knowledge of the infliction of these just deserts:

Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

Now, that’s schadenfreude, big league.

Putting the question of hell to one side, though, we can note that if schadenfreude can be legitimate even in that case, then a fortiori it can be legitimate in the case of lesser instances of someone getting his just deserts, in this life rather than the afterlife.  For example – and to take the case Bill has in mind — suppose someone’s suffering is a consequence of anti-Catholic bigotry, brazen corruption, unbearable smugness, a sense of entitlement, groupthink, and in general from hubris virtually begging nemesis to pay a visit.  When you’re really asking for it, you can’t blame others for enjoying seeing you get it. 





Go here to read the comments.  The last sentence in the analysis of Doctor Feser says it all.






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  1. I’m not one to generally laugh at others’ misfortunes. I don’t think The Three Stooges is funny, for example. But when I saw the kiddies CRYING at Hillary’s loss, I just laughed and laughed. That, along with the actual campaigns on both sides being the most amusing I’ve ever witnessed (voting since 1980), plus Trump’s win — makes this so far THE BEST ELECTION EVER !!!

  2. 107,330. (Taken from commenter Giuseppe on Fr. Z’s blog via. Thomas Collins.

    That’s the total number of votes comprising of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that if they didn’t go to Trump we would be stewing over a pathetic Madam President.

    Dodged a bullet, and praying Trump isn’t a land mine.

    I did think it poetic that Hillary couldn’t even face her supporters at the end, having to send John Padosta to break the news. Then Padosta has the nerve to blame the media for “giving Trump a pass.”. Admittedly this collapse of Clinton and her team is hysterical.

    I wonder what the bill was for the damages in her suite. The lamps are so easy to bump into….

  3. Why do we insist on the German borrowing, Schadenfreude, when we have a perfectly good English word – epicharikaky (or epicaricacy)?

  4. Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The popularity of the word, as recorded by Google, takes off post war: a confluence of the previous generation’s academic attitudes towards German intellectualism hitting popular culture (the stereotype of Germans as smart, insightful psychologists!) at about the same time as returning soldiers from the German war front.

    It’s a little cultural artifact plonked right into everyday language.

  5. c matt wrote, “The English word sounds Greek.”

    Yes – It is obviously derived from ἐπιχαιρεκακία. German regularly translates compounds that we leave in Greek: Hydrogen – Wasserstoffe, Oxygen – Sauerstoff and so on.

    I think it was Ruskin who suggested folkwain for omnibus; it never caught on, but it is the sort of thing Germans do instinctively.

  6. We are too busy being happy at having dodged the electoral bullet Hillary represented than to be much interested in her feelings about it. On the other hand, there is so much which is ridiculous about the tenets of the Democratic Party that it would be ungrateful not to enjoy a good hearty laugh at it all.
    Back to Hillary: Jesse Jackson suggests that President Obama issue a “blanket pardon” to her on his way out. May I suggest a modification of his proposal? Pardon Hillary for any and all crimes to which she will clearly admit.

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