Anger And Forgiveness Resentment Generosity Justice PdfBy Olympia B. In and pdf 26.03.2021 at 02:18 4 min read
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A wave of nationalistic populism is sweeping across Europe and North America.
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Anger and Forgiveness
A wave of nationalistic populism is sweeping across Europe and North America. Some have concluded that anger is to blame for these developments Moss, Others have asserted that those who want to resist the wave must tap into their anger for energy Gambino, As Nussbaum has specified elsewhere, anger lies at the core of our current political predicaments Green, , but it is certainly not part of her solution.
Drawing on what she describes as a long tradition of philosophical and political thought — which counts Aristotle and the Stoics among its members — Nussbaum proposes a simple definition of anger. She maintains that anger consists of two intrinsic components: the idea that a serious wrong has been committed, and a wish for the wrongdoer to suffer pp.
The problems with anger stem from the second component, namely, the desire for retribution. This desire is unjustifiable, according to Nussbaum. The reason for this, I infer, is because it conflicts with the core liberal commitment to the equal dignity of human beings pp.
Despite the intrinsic faults of anger, Nussbaum concedes that it can have three constructive functions, provided that the perceived harm is well-grounded — i.
First, anger can signal to oneself and others that a wrong has occurred, although its trustworthiness in this role is questionable given its narcissistic bias. Second, anger can provide the motivation to take action against the cause of a wrong. Finally, anger may deter others from causing damage in the future by warning them of the negative consequences of harmful acts pp. The efficacy of anger as a deterrent, however, has less to do with the subjective emotion than with its visible expression.
Indeed, Nussbaum says that it is much preferable to give a controlled performance of angry behavior than to actually be angry pp. This involves extricating oneself from the emotion and its preoccupation with the past by recognizing its normative problems and, instead, adopting a forward-looking focus on welfare pp.
Confusing matters somewhat, Nussbaum uses Transition to refer to both the process of transitioning from anger to a forward-looking mentality concerned with welfare, as well as this mentality itself p. Something should be done about that. Pure Transition-anger, according to Nussbaum, is very rare. Parents might experience it in relation to their children, particularly young ones, when they misbehave.
In such cases, the anger of the parents may consist in the recognition of the wrong accompanied by a desire to help the child p. In the political sphere, Nussbaum suggests that the Civil Rights Movement was, at certain points, driven by Transition-anger.
Nevertheless, Transition-anger must be handled with care. Even when we say that we are outraged about the violation of some principle and want to prevent this in the future, we often begin to want the particular violator to suffer pp.
So while anger can potentially be constructive, Nussbaum urges us to avoid it whenever possible. More controversially perhaps, Nussbaum also argues that forgiveness, popularly seen as the morally superior alternative to anger, is equally problematic in most cases. According to Nussbaum, the most common type of forgiveness is transactional, involving an exchange of apology for forgiveness. Nussbaum traces this to the strand of the Christian tradition that emphasizes confession and apology chap.
In this form, forgiveness suffers from the same intrinsic flaw as anger, that is, the desire for the wrongdoer to suffer, in this case through some self-abasing act of contrition p.
She proposes two alternatives to transactional forgiveness that we should reach for when we are angry: unconditional forgiveness, and unconditional love and generosity. The first option, at least in practice, eschews the demand for apology and other acts of penance.
While unconditional forgiveness might be preferable to transactional forgiveness, Nussbaum is still wary of it. Therefore, it does not reliably guide us to the forward-looking attitude of Transition pp. The ideal response to anger, according to Nussbaum, is unconditional love.
To illustrate the pitfalls of anger as well as forgiveness, Nussbaum examines a range of examples from philosophy, law, literature, religion, and the history of political movements.
The analysis of political movements chap. According to Nussbaum, these great leaders of the twentieth century agree with her argument that in politics as in other spheres of life, anger is destructive because it involves preoccupation with the past pp.
She acknowledges that King and Mandela occasionally drew on anger, but in those cases it was either Transition-anger without a desire for retribution, or regular anger quickly succeeded by Transition p. I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people Mandela, , p.
Nussbaum interprets this as an instance of moving from anger, and its desire for retribution, to Transition pp. But these words or the passage in which they appear do not show clearly that Mandela thought he had given up his anger, even if he had abandoned any conscious desire for retribution. A more straightforward interpretation could be that he saw himself as channeling his anger productively. King, similarly — as Nussbaum pp. Even if King and Mandela agreed with Nussbaum that the desire for retribution is constitutive of anger which is questionable , they evidently did not believe that it was a fatal problem.
Hence, one wonders whether it is worth obsessing over any residual payback wish in Transition-anger and unconditional forgiveness, especially since such residue could be present in any emotion or action. Moreover, if anger can enable activists to resist the present turn towards illiberalism, the principal task of the political theorist is, surely, not to police their emotions, but to provide them with resources for constructive resistance.
Her writing, as always, is erudite and engaging, and she uses it to craft a sharp lens through which students of politics can interpret current events. Advanced undergraduates and scholars of political emotions will find this to be an important resource and starting point for discussion — possibly quite heated, however much Nussbaum might prefer the temperature to be kept down.
Gambino, L. Guardian , 12 November. Green, E. Mandela, N Long Walk to Freedom. London: Abacus. Google Scholar. Moss, P. BBC News , [online] 31 December. Download references. Reprints and Permissions. Degerman, D. Anger and forgiveness: Resentment, generosity, and justice.
Contemp Polit Theory 17, 9—12 Download citation. Published : 24 February Issue Date : February Search SpringerLink Search. Download PDF. References Gambino, L. Rights and permissions Reprints and Permissions. About this article. Cite this article Degerman, D.
And yet the dance of anger and forgiveness, performed to the uncontrollable rhythm of trust, is perhaps the most difficult in human life, as well as one of the oldest. The moral choreography of that dance is what philosopher Martha Nussbaum explores in Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice public library. Anger is an unusually complex emotion, since it involves both pain and pleasure [because] the prospect of retribution is pleasant… Anger also involves a double reference—to a person or people and to an act… The focus of anger is an act imputed to the target, which is taken to be a wrongful damage. Injuries may be the focus in grief as well. Anger, then, requires causal thinking, and some grasp of right and wrong.
It furthers the Universitys objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Pressin the UK and in certain other countries. Martha C. Nussbaum All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license,or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to theRights Department, Oxford University Press, at the addressabove.
Anger is not just ubiquitous, it is also popular. Many people think it is impossible to care sufficiently for justice without anger at injustice. Many believe that it is impossible for individuals to vindicate their own self-respect or to move beyond an injury without anger. To not feel anger in those cases would be considered suspect. Is this how we should think about anger, or is anger above all a disease, deforming both the personal and the political? In this wide-ranging book, Martha C. Nussbaum, one of our leading public intellectuals, argues that anger is conceptually confused and normatively pernicious.
Anger and forgiveness: Resentment, generosity, and justice
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