Philosopher Martha Nussbaum on the limits of Anger

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum on the limits of Anger

– Aristotle: Anyone can get angry – that’s easy; hitting the right target, with the right amount – that is devilishly hard
– he also believed that anger damages you in the social hierarchy
– a wit once said: get angry, then get over it
– it may seem strange to say, but humans, it can be argued are:
– attached to their anger
– can be almost protective of their (righteous) anger
– because we may feel personally aggrieved
– because we believe a deeply held personal principle has been violated
– our anger can be our way to articulate our need for justice
– some people feel they are never more truly themselves than when they are angry
– in politics, anger is often defended as showing moral seriousness & that we take another person’s opinions seriously
– politicians/media opinion shapers often appeal to outrage to mobilise others

Martha Nussbaum believes the best thing we can do with anger is to “give it up”
– she believes justice demands a different response than just outrage
– she has a strong distrust of anger, because of its destructiveness
– she notes she still gets angry a lot with the “middle realm”, the mundane administrivia of life such as things breaking down, paying bills
– she no longer believes that anger is necessary to protest a social wrong (despite the widespread belief that anger is a necessary motivator to change something)
– Aristotle: you, someone or something you care about has been wronged, and that it would be good for the perpetrator to suffer for what they have done
– she acknowledges “payback” is probably hard wired in human beings, but
– she also believes that human beings are probably duping themselves if they believe there is some kind of cosmic balance or justice that “sets things right” through payback – that somehow proportionality will make good the offence. She notes that it never does.
– she notes punishment does not change the past, but it can reform the offender into the future
– she believes anger is profoundly stupid & destructive
– rather than payback, it is better to think about making a new life & to live better
– intelligent thought & work which is constructive, empathic, forward-looking, & hard to do, & is much better to do in her opinion [commitment to final conciliation; refusal to give in to the retributive urge/to strike back; problem-solve; the happiness of our opponents is inseparable from our own future happiness]
– she cites Ghandi, Mandela & Dr Martin Luther King as examples
– she acknowledges that society today is very retributive in nature, & that this further reinforces the payback culture that has developed
– & she notes that it applies to both men & women showing contempt & disdain of other

Source: ABC RN | The Philosopher’s Zone Program Podcast | 14.08.2016


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