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6 MIN READ TIME

THE KINGDOM OF DAMAGE

WHEN MY HUSBAND was in law school, he used to relate to me everything he was learning as a kind of memory exercise. I would typically pose a few naive questions. One evening he raised the matter of torts, and the ways a liable wrongdoer might redress the harm they’ve done. Almost always, I noticed, the restitution was monetary, even where the harm hadn’t been. “Why money?” I asked, not expecting much more than the idea that money is a universal solvent. Instead my husband dashed off a theory I’ve been considering since. As far as the law is concerned, when you harm someone, a piece of property is created—their damage, so to speak—and you, the wrongdoer, must buy it from the victim to satisfy (or at least exhaust) their claim against you.

Though I may have intuited it before, I had never quite realized so distinctly that harms can’t actually be redressed. Whatever you lose when someone hurts you, you lose for good; whatever they supply to make amends can never return you to your prior state of having never been hurt. For the law, this is a problem—because, as Agnes Callard points out, it means that the wronged have an eternal warrant for vengeance, and pose a permanent threat to peace. The imaginary property dreamed into being by tort law provides a remedy by way of metaphor. Once you surrender your damage for recompense, you have no further claim to it. So it goes with property.

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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.