This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015, although I changed the title.
The author is magic
“Death of the Author” is a famous 1967 essay by Roland Barthes regarding the interpretation of literature. He argues that the intentions and context of the author are irrelevant when interpreting the author’s work. At most, the author provides a single interpretation, which must compete with all other interpretations.
“Intent! It’s fucking magic!” is an influential 2010 essay by Kinsey Hope regarding the moral judgment actions. There’s a common circumstance wherein a person tries to justify their mistakes by emphasizing their good intentions. The essay snarkily observes that good intentions have the strange and magical power to erase all harms. “Intention isn’t magic” has become a common saying among activists.
Though the two essays live in completely different contexts (literary criticism vs moral discourse), I would argue that the sentiments behind each are substantially similar. Indeed, in the modern age, when we increasingly look at popular works of fiction through moral lenses, and when “actions” often consist of tweets or other comments, it is questionable whether they even live in different contexts.