Just deserts

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Externally hosted image on Handprints: Drawings Gallery #36
Drawing by Georges Lévis with an English text added.

A person who gets what he or she deserves (reward or punishment, as the case may be) is said to have received his or her just deserts.

The word is related to justice, guilt and many topics central to moral philosophy, also "moral desert".

Deserving reward or punishment[edit]

In ordinary usage, to deserve is to earn or merit a reward; in philosophy, the distinction is drawn in the term desert to include the case that that which one receives as one's just deserts may well be unwelcome, or a reward.

In any cultural situation where certain punishments are established, a person can be thought to be deserving or not deserving that punishment in a given moment for something they have said, done, or failed to do. In the punishment of spanking, it can be anywhere in the range between an undeserved spanking and a well-deserved spanking. The spankee's feelings as to their deserving or not deserving the spanking may differ from the spanker's feelings.

A spanking tends to be best received if the spankee is contrite and feels guilty and deserving it. If they feel undeserving it, their view can sometimes be changed by the punishment, but it is also quite possible they feel unfairly (mal)treated, resulting in trauma, anger, hatred, revenge, and similar negative outcomes.

Parents and educators therefore often take great lengths to make the delinquent understand the severity of their offense and agree that the punishment is fair and "needs to be". In the simplest case, this is done through a well-worded scolding (perhaps ideally a positive scolding) before and/or during the punishment (see also the layer cake method).

The feeling of a well-deserved punishment can also be already strengthened ahead of the offense committed, through a stern warning to behave, or else a spanking will follow.

Sometimes it is the other way round and a person feels guilty and deserving punishment for something, but is not punished. This can be for example because their misdeed is not found out, or they successfully lied about it and got away, or because their parent or guardian is too soft-hearted to punish, or simply disagrees on the severity of the perceived transgression. In such cases, feelings of bad conscience and guilt can accumulate and lead to negative consequences.

Spelling pitfall[edit]

Many people think "just deserts" is spelled "just desserts". This is wrong.

The noun "desert" (accent on the first syllable) is generally used to refer to an arid, barren expanse of land; the noun "dessert" (accent on the second syllable) is a sweet course or dish usually served at the end of a meal. However, the word "desert" — when spelled like the former but pronounced like the latter — also refers to a deserved reward or punishment. Therefore, someone who does wrong and is punished in a suitable manner has received his "just deserts." Many people, unfamiliar with the "reward or punishment" meaning of the word "desert," mistakenly assume that the phrase "just deserts" is properly spelled "just desserts" because of its pronunciation. (The usual reasoning is that a dessert is a type of reward one is given at the end of a meal, so someone who receives suitable rewards or punishments for his actions has gotten his "just desserts.") When one gets what one deserves, good or bad, one is getting one's "just deserts," accent on the second syllable but spelled like the arid, barren lands.
  — from Snopes.com

See also[edit]

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Desert (philosophy). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Spanking Art, the text of Wikipedia is available under a copyleft license, the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.