University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)563-579
Journal publication date29 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2018


David Lewis introduced the idea of a quasi-miracle to overcome a problem in his initial account of counterfactuals. Here we put the notion of a quasi-miracle to a different and new use, showing that it offers a novel account of the phenomenon of poetic justice, where characters in a narrative get their due by happy accident (for example, when the murderer of King Mitys happens to be crushed by a falling statue of Mitys). The key to understanding poetic justice is to see what makes poetically just events remarkable coincidences. We argue that remarkable coincidence is to be understood in terms of a distinctive type of experience quasi-miracles offer. Cases of poetic justice offer a dual awareness of the accidental nature of the events and of a non-accidental process, involving intention, which it appears would explain them. We also extend this account to incorporate how we might experience magic tricks. An account of poetic justice as quasi-miraculous allows us to account for the experience of encounters with poetic justice, as involving the incongruity of seeing design in accident.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Craig Bourne, and Emily Caddick Bourne, ‘Explanation and Quasi‐miracles in Narrative Understanding: The Case of Poetic Justice’, Dialectica, Vol. 71 (4): 563-579, January 2018, which has been published in final form at Under embargo until 29 January 2020. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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