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THE WOUND IS REAL

PAUL BLOOM ASKS, “Do angry people make the best romantic partners?” “Best” is a tricky word here, but speaking only for myself, I would not think that the “best” partner for me would be someone who never became angry or even someone who became angry less frequently than my husband does.

I am not perfect. Sometimes I am insufficiently loving, appreciative, or attentive; sometimes I do not try hard enough to overcome my faults; and sometimes I behave in ways that are outright disrespectful. Because he loves me, my husband doesn’t just observe or notice my disrespect, he directly undergoes or experiences it. My disrespect hits him where it hurts, and his anger hits back, and hurts me. If he became less sensitized to how I act, or if I became less sensitive to his anger, I would not see that as an improvement in our relationship. Rather, I would think that we had come to matter less to one another.

One reason why we want romantic partners in the first place is that we need help to become the people we want to be—we are not, already, “best.” When you have a deep connection with someone, their anger allows you to outsource some of your striving: your partner’s anger is a mechanism of your aspiration. Daryl Cameron and Victoria Spring are right to note that making use of this mechanism has real psychological costs. Nonetheless, I want my husband to be willing to shoulder such costs on my behalf. I see his willingness to devote some of himself to regulating me—to dedicate a piece of his own psychological real estate to combating my faults and vices—as a measure of his love.

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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.