concepts section: copyright Robert Ellis 2011


Requital means a just response to one's motives or actions, with bad actions resulting in punishment and good ones in reward. This is a useful concept in the analysis of cosmic justice beliefs, though the only use of this concept in Middle Way philosophy is critical. Cosmic justice beliefs are regarded as unhelpful metaphysical beliefs, arising from the deluded idea that the universe's response to us, rather than our own responses to it, are the basis of ethics. The idea that the universe offers us requital in any sense is deluded because we know far too little about the universe to justify any such massive claims about it.

Requital is a useful term for referring to beliefs in just punishment and beliefs in just reward together. Some types of cosmic justice belief (e.g. Marx's) include only ultimate reward and not punishment. Some especially pessimistic environmentalists seem to think of our collective fate as consisting only in punishment by the world. Dogmatic optimism, dogmatic pessimism, and belief that individuals are always justly rewarded or punished can all be bracketed as requital beliefs. However, such beliefs project human justice onto the universe, and interpreting experience only in the light of cosmic justice dogma lead us to neglect the mixed conditions we actually encounter. By seeing morality as requital, too, we are less likely to understand moral objectivity in relation to our experience, having to accept or reject claims about requital that go beyond experience. It is important to see moral objectivity in different terms in which neither the acceptance nor rejection of universal requital are necessary.

Links to related discussion

Features of eternalism (including cosmic justice, from thesis)

Features of nihilism (including denial of cosmic justice, from thesis)

Christianity (from thesis)

Marx (from thesis)

Critique of karma and rebirth beliefs in Buddhism (from 'The Trouble with Buddhism')


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