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ANGER AND THE POLITICS OF THE OPPRESSED

WHILE ANGER IS A COMPLEX EMOTION that has both cognitive and visceral properties, philosophers have long argued that there are morally right and morally wrong ways for us to express our anger. As Agnes Callard outlines, most philosophers view anger as a moral response to injustice while a smaller camp, stemming from the Stoic tradition, consider the emotion a wellspring for spite. Martha Nussbaum, for example, worries that anger often leads to narcissism and vindictiveness —behavior bent on “payback.” Malpractice and divorce litigation are among her favorite examples of such moral conceits: a retributive attitude that revives neither life nor love.

Though Nussbaum says a lot about anger in private life, she seems primarily interested in its place in politics, especially in contexts of persecution. In Anger and Forgiveness (2016), she concedes that anger can be a valuable political emotion: when the oppressed get angry, it signals that they recognize the wrong done to them. Anger can also motivate protests of such wrongs. Still, in response to retaliatory rage, Nussbaum argues for transitional anger, a mental pivot away from seeking payback to “more productive forwardlooking thoughts, asking what can actually be done to increase either personal or social welfare.”

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About Boston Review

Anger looms large in our public lives. Should it? Reflecting on two millennia of debates about the value of anger, Agnes Callard contends that efforts to distinguish righteous forms of anger from unjust vengeance, or appropriate responses to wrongdoing from inappropriate ones, are misguided. What if, she asks, anger is not a bug of human life, but a feature—an emotion that, for all its troubling qualities, is an essential part of being a moral agent in an imperfect world? And if anger is both troubling and essential, what then do we do with the implications: that angry victims of injustice are themselves morally compromised, and that it might not be possible to respond rightly to being treated wrongly? As Callard concludes, “We can’t be good in a bad world.” The contributions that follow explore anger in its many forms—public and private, personal and political—raising an issue that we must grapple with: Does the vast well of public anger compromise us all? FORUM Lead essay by Agnes Callard. Responses by Paul Bloom, Elizabeth Bruenig, Desmond Jagmohan, Daryl Cameron & Victoria Spring, Myisha Cherry, Jesse Prinz, Rachel Achs, Barbara Herman, Oded Na’aman. Final response by Agnes Callard. ESSAYS Judith Butler interviewed by Brandon M. Terry, David Konstan, Martha C. Nussbaum, Whitney Phillips, Amy Olberding.