Law and Morality in Breaking Bad: The Aesthetics of Justice

  • David Koepsell


Law and morality have been connected in various ways over time through both legal and religious institutions. A couple modern, secular notions about how law relates to morality still contend. On the one hand, legal positivists generally argue that law and morality are largely separate realms, connected by more or less arbitrary social choices if at all, and that justice emerges through the consistent application of power through rules and states. Natural law theories, which trace their origins to times when churches and states were substantially the same, hold for the most part that justice derives from some principles that preexist, or are separate ontologically from laws, and that only adherence to those principles can bring about justice. Neither of these major theories is fully satisfying, counterexamples seem to abound and the flux of modern morals and rules continues to raise questions of justice. I argue in this chapter that none of the philosophical, analytical approaches to understanding justice will do. Rather, justice, as a phenomenon, can best be sensed aesthetically, through examples, and not reduced to a set of mere principles. Contrasting Les Miserables, Crime and Punishment and Breaking Bad, I try to explain why, despite his many crimes, the shows concludes with a sense of justice having been achieved.


Procedural Justice Legal Rule Legal Positivism Aesthetic Sense Substantive Justice 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Koepsell
    • 1
  1. 1.UAM-XochimilcoMexico CityMexico

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