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    Thread: Is anger toward people ever justified?

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      Is anger toward people ever justified?

      For the last week or so I've been thinking a lot about people's worldviews. Everyone lives in the same objective world, but also experiences his own private mind.

      So we're constantly judging, during interactions with other humans, what they might be thinking. We guess their motives for saying what they say, what they feel and what they think is right.

      Every action that anyone decides to perform is done for a reason. That reason is always to fulfill some desire. In deciding on one particular action, we are concluding that the best outcome will be attained by performing that action. The best outcome is the one which satisfies our desires best. We might make errors here. Due to laziness, for example, we might choose an action that will lead to immediate gratification while leaving long-term desires unfulfilled.

      Anger is an emotion sometimes held toward a person when we feel that he has done something wrong. He has affected us, directly or indirectly, in some negative way, and is not justified in having done whatever he did. The definition I've just given is not official, but in my experience the emotion of anger always involves at least this.

      But if everyone is acting in order to fulfill his or her desires, how can we say that anyone is unjustified in doing anything? What exactly do we experience anger toward a person for? What, in every case of anger, has the person actually done wrong?

      One possibility is that we're angry at the person for having different values than we do. As an extreme example, if someone thinks that killing is right, we might be angry at him because we do not agree with his core value.

      Another possibility is that we're angry that the person has made some error in her reasoning. If someone judges you as stupid, for example, you might be angry at her for making that judgment. You don't think that she had sufficient reason to label you as stupid. Perhaps you've made one thoughtless comment, as everyone does occasionally, and she judges you as an overall stupid person due to it. You think that she is not using his or her brain well, is making the judgment for bad reasons, and you therefore feel anger toward her.

      But does it really make sense to be angry at anyone for either of these reasons? A person can hardly be blamed for having a core value that differs from yours. Those values are not derived through reason. They simply come with our brains, whether genetically or through experience. Once they've been established, we have no control over them. (I'm talking about base desires, not those that can be changed through reason).

      Neither can someone be blamed for making a logical error, for reasoning incorrectly. Why would we get angry at someone for having made a mistake? Surely he intended not to make any mistakes, and he tries to use his brain correctly, to come to decisions that make sense. Blame cannot be put on someone for failing to do it right.
      Last edited by Dianeva; 11-09-2011 at 11:08 AM.

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      Do emotional states merit any talk of moral justification in the first place? It seems to me that actions are what we ought to consider morally justifiable or not justifiable. Surely if one's emotional state does not lead to an action, then any talk of moral justification of that state is moot.
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      But then we largely deem which actions are correct based on the emotions they engender in others. An action in itself cannot merit talk of moral justification, without considering the human response.

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      Anger is a form of resistance to what is or what has transpired. Sometimes the truth is so hard to take that we must use anger in order to bear it. But anger is something foreign, don't forget that. Clinging to anger impedes growth because it hinders mental capacity (flattens energy) and disables maximum observation. In other words anger blinds. A wise man uses patience and openness because they are the most effective tools.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I think emotional states can merit talk about moral justification. An emotional state is usually dependent on a thought, which may or may not be rightly justified. When you experience anger, you have the ability to reflect on what what exactly is making you angry, if it rightly merits anger, and are presented with the choice of staying angry or letting it go through reason. Someone may feel anger toward someone who is happy with their life because they are envious. A more thoughtful person may realize how unreasonable this is and choose to withhold anger, someone who decides to go with this anger is doing it for "morally" unjustified reasons, at least according to me. Of course, it's much more difficult to withhold anger when the situation is more obvious and directly personal. I think anger can provide good motivation for productive action. I don't see anything wrong with a "I'll show them" attitude toward people who doubt you if it serves as a motivation to work harder. Anger is so often misplaced and misused, and sometimes hard to contain until it can be used productively and often serves as a source for stupid and counter productive actions, but can more rarely be used for good causes.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 11-09-2011 at 09:26 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      But then we largely deem which actions are correct based on the emotions they engender in others. An action in itself cannot merit talk of moral justification, without considering the human response.
      Yes, point taken. So we do not want to expunge emotions from moral talk altogether. But since the only way that my experience of an emotional state can affect the emotional state of another is if it leads me to act upon them in some direct or indirect way, it still is not obvious to me in what way my initial emotional response can be morally relevant in itself, which is my reading of the question at hand.

      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      When you experience anger, you have the ability to reflect on what what exactly is making you angry, if it rightly merits anger, and are presented with the choice of staying angry or letting it go through reason. Someone may feel anger toward someone who is happy with their life because they are envious. A more thoughtful person may realize how unreasonable this is and choose to withhold anger, someone who decides to go with this anger is doing it for "morally" unjustified reasons, at least according to me.
      Interesting. The parts that I put in bold seem to represent the key point of your argument. I have three (related) responses. First, your view hinges on the crucial presupposition that we are able to successfully exert willful control over our emotional states. But whether or not this is actually the case is an empirical question, not an assumption to be simply made in passing. There is an fact a fairly voluminous literature on emotion regulation in experimental psychology which suggests that our ability to manage our emotions in a strongly deliberate fashion is somewhat limited (but not nonexistent), and the process often quite mentally taxing. Second, while we can sometimes manage our emotional processes once they have started, this is necessarily a post-hoc corrective process. So what about that initial reflexive emotion? Is that initial reflex subject to moral justification? It seems bizarre to me to say that it is. Third, and perhaps most importantly, notice that all this talk of willfully managing our emotions in the first place is really talk about a type of action, in the sense of executing a willful decision; I might or might not act to manage my emotional states, and it is really this action (or lack thereof) which is morally relevant if anything is. So we seem to still be talking about actions as morally justifiable, and not emotional states themselves.

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      You can have any values or opinions you want, it is the imposing those values and opinions on others that is the issue. I take a very libertarian view on this. If you think it is good to kill people, then I don't care. If two people agree killing is good, then one kills the other, then I still don't care. They have the same views, and can decide to fight to the death if they want. How ever if a person thinks killing is wrong, and you then kill that person, you are imposing you values on them, and then I very much care and I will be very upset.

      It is the act of forcing you views on other, which justifies anger. In cases like that you are protecting yourself, from people who are forcing things on you. I don't think we should be angry with anyone for holding views, as long as they respect our views. We respect each others view, even if we disagree and we can all get along. And part of that respect is not forcing it on people.
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      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      Do emotional states merit any talk of moral justification in the first place? It seems to me that actions are what we ought to consider morally justifiable or not justifiable. Surely if one's emotional state does not lead to an action, then any talk of moral justification of that state is moot.
      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      But since the only way that my experience of an emotional state can affect the emotional state of another is if it leads me to act upon them in some direct or indirect way, it still is not obvious to me in what way my initial emotional response can be morally relevant in itself, which is my reading of the question at hand.
      I agree. To consider one's emotional reaction to something unjustified is curiously similar to the concept of thoughtcrimes, a concept which I abhor. Actions can be, generally, controlled to a degree, and thus are subject to scrutiny. But if I hate Mr. X because of reason Y, I can't just make myself not hate Mr. X because feeling hatred is "bad" without properly suppressing my emotions or using a form of doublethink. What I do and why is relevant, but not the feeling in itself.

      If I slap Mr. X in the face for being someone whom I hate, my action may or may not be justified by the standards of both the individuals involved and society at large. But how I personally feel about Mr. X is largely my business, especially if I make the decision to, more or less, keep it to myself.
      I don't usually think, therefore I mostly am not.
      Quote Originally Posted by abicus View Post
      You can not convince the one with faith who needs not look for fact that the facts "prove them wrong".
      Likewise, you cant teach some one who looks for facts to have faith in the absence of facts.

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      I think the key to any emotion in general is the moral or ethical value of the actions you express that emotion with.

      Example: I used to be very violent in nature, why, I still don't know, but I was VERY violent. However, when I was violent, it was always justified in my eyes because I was always protecting someone else. I would defend myself when needed, but I was mainly the kid that would seek out the bully's, no matter how much bigger they were than me, if I saw someone being bullied around, I would stand up for them where no one else would, and they obviously couldn't themselves. Basically I became a bully to the bully's haha.

      Now today, thanks to the justice system and the people that think a firm talking to will solve everything or telling the police or whatever (basically not taking care of it themselves), I have had to learn to control that emotion of wanting to protect people the only way I know how. However, if someone is wronging another, especially my family, they WILL pay for it in a justified manner. For example, should someone raise their hand to my mother, I would break that hand along with whatever goes with it such as the forearm, elbow joint, upper arm and joint for their shoulder. Should someone call my mother a bitch or verbally assault her in any other form, then a broken jaw would suffice. I'm this way with anyone that I view as being my family, blood or not.

      Otherwise, I've been told I'm one of the most peaceful people around. I love people, no matter what their views are, hell I love all of you simply because you are all unique, and as long as people don't try to harm my family or me, then I'll continue loving that person, but if they do try to hurt my family or me, then I'll love the shit out of them while inflicting as much pain as possible. When it comes to my family, and protecting them, I have no conscience for others, I have no regret to my actions, I have nothing, and I won't discriminate, in other words, male, female, young, old, white, black, yellow, brown or green.
      The unexamined life is not worth living - Aristotle

      NO, NO, that's bullshit! I wasn't with a hooker today HA HA!

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      Anger is a useless emotion.
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      "Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools"- Einstein

      "How passionately I hate them!"- Einstein
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      Quote Originally Posted by Inseparate View Post
      Anger is a useless emotion.
      [I'm a Douche]Thanks for backing up your statement with a logical argument like the rest of us[/I'm a Douche].
      Last edited by kookyinc; 11-10-2011 at 10:00 PM.
      I don't usually think, therefore I mostly am not.
      Quote Originally Posted by abicus View Post
      You can not convince the one with faith who needs not look for fact that the facts "prove them wrong".
      Likewise, you cant teach some one who looks for facts to have faith in the absence of facts.

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      Quote Originally Posted by kookyinc View Post
      [I'm a Douche]Thanks for backing up your statement with a logical argument like the rest of us[/I'm a Douche].
      I don't really think I have to make a logical argument to say that I have no use or desire for anger. It seems plain as day to me.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Inseparate View Post
      I don't really think I have to make a logical argument to say that I have no use or desire for anger. It seems plain as day to me.
      But it does not to others. Your statement is equivocal to saying, "I don't really think I have to make a logical argument why existentialism is the most sensible philosophy. It seems plain as day to me." If you make a positive statement, you should back it up.

      Quad error demonstrandum: anger has practical applications.

      That is the claim. Here is the argument so that others who may not think as I do may agree.

      You don't think as much when angry, and thus it can help one make snap decisions in a dangerous situation. Anger can help both the individual and those around him discover problems with relationships that may have otherwise gone unnoticed (e.g., X gets angry when Y makes fun of X's weight. Y now knows that X does not like his actions without X needing to say anything or explain). Anger provides incentive to change things (e.g. I'm angry that the top 1% controls so much wealth, I'm going to protest).
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      I don't usually think, therefore I mostly am not.
      Quote Originally Posted by abicus View Post
      You can not convince the one with faith who needs not look for fact that the facts "prove them wrong".
      Likewise, you cant teach some one who looks for facts to have faith in the absence of facts.

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      Anger is certainly justified in certain cases, but even then it's rarely useful. People end up doing very stupid things because they are emotionally satisfying.
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      Anger can inspire some people to take action...sometimes people need to get angry about something to effect change. But otherwise, I do tend to think that anger has no place in day to day life. Regardless of whether you take action against someone who has angered you, your energy and further interactions with that person will create tension and awkwardness until you completely let go of your anger. I see no point in holding grudges.
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      Quote Originally Posted by nina View Post
      Anger can inspire some people to take action...sometimes people need to get angry about something to effect change. But otherwise, I do tend to think that anger has no place in day to day life. Regardless of whether you take action against someone who has angered you, your energy and further interactions with that person will create tension and awkwardness until you completely let go of your anger. I see no point in holding grudges.
      Anger out of action is action rooted in the wrong place.

      I would prefer anger to total apathy but patience > anger every time.

      Notice animals don't feel anger. This is because animals are incapable of resisting what is. They instantly accept the moment because they lack the cognitive features that allow them to resist it.

      Seneca once said "The greatest remedy for anger is delay."

      I agree sometime anger wakes you up to remind you that you do have feelings, you're not made of stone. But acting from anger is an easy way to cause regret later.
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      Anger is like any other emotion, it shouldn't be denied. Should we not be angered by the actions of hypocrites, murderers? Should I not be angry at the way people treat others? The key is balancing your anger with sensibility. As to not act out of character. But anger is just as important and love. It's all part of the same coin.
      This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R'lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway.

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      Quote Originally Posted by DeathCell View Post
      Anger is like any other emotion, it shouldn't be denied. Should we not be angered by the actions of hypocrites, murderers? Should I not be angry at the way people treat others? The key is balancing your anger with sensibility. As to not act out of character. But anger is just as important and love. It's all part of the same coin.
      I would disagree with this. Anger should not be denied, but it shouldn't be fed, either. Like I said before anger is good to wake you up but never make choices angry.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      The only use that anger can have is to teach you of its uselessness.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Inseparate View Post
      The only use that anger can have is to teach you of its uselessness.
      I disagree, for the reasons I have stated above.


      Quote Originally Posted by kookyinc View Post
      [A]nger has practical applications... [Y]ou don't think as much when angry, and thus it can help one make snap decisions in a dangerous situation. Anger can help both the individual and those around him discover problems with relationships that may have otherwise gone unnoticed (e.g., X gets angry when Y makes fun of X's weight. Y now knows that X does not like his actions without X needing to say anything or explain). Anger provides incentive to change things (e.g. I'm angry that the top 1% controls so much wealth, I'm going to protest).
      If anger were useless, it would not have evolved, or it would be a random fluke, a vestigial response, like fear of the dark even in a perfectly safe place. In one's bedroom in the dark, there is nothing dangerous, but some still fear the dark.

      Anger, on the other hand, is seen in every human and it has the above-stated uses.
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      Quote Originally Posted by abicus View Post
      You can not convince the one with faith who needs not look for fact that the facts "prove them wrong".
      Likewise, you cant teach some one who looks for facts to have faith in the absence of facts.

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      It doesn't do any of the above things. Anger is a form of panic, a person is much more competent setting it aside. I would not call anger a random fluke nor a product of evolution. We developed expectations and alongside this anger emerged as a coping mechanism for our expectation system. Nothing favorable comes out of angry decision making. One can be enthusiastic and accomplish action just as quickly. Anger is selfish, its about what is owed you and what the world takes or with-holds from you.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I think anger is just someone's way of reacting towards someone who is making them feel uncomfortable or small; they don't know how else to tell the person that they're wrong, or are being condescending to them.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Notice animals don't feel anger. This is because animals are incapable of resisting what is. They instantly accept the moment because they lack the cognitive features that allow them to resist it.
      Sources? I have to disagree with this statement. You work in an animal ER and tell me you never meet any angry, fractious cats. Some of them are just...angry little bastards. Animals display a whole host of emotions, who says they don't feel anger?

      But I pretty much agree with everything else you said.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      It doesn't do any of the above things.
      Anger helps one make better analytical decisions. Here is a link to the abstract (and a PDF) of a University of California psychological study from 2007 demonstrating this.
      Anger helps one to defend oneself from harm. Here is a link to an About.com article on it written by a therapist.
      Anger helps people solve problems with one another. Here is a link to a LiveScience article on this fun fact.
      Anger motivates people to take action when they feel mistreated. Here is a link to the University of Michigan's article on the study (I couldn't pull up the actual paper due to some server issue, but it's hyperlinked in the article).

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Anger is a form of panic, a person is much more competent setting it aside.
      Panic is defined as "a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals" (sauce). Anger is not the same as fear, and thus, by proxy, is not a form of panic. A difference is also seen in the microexpressions that result from anger and contempt, verses fear.

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      I would not call anger a random fluke nor a product of evolution. We developed expectations and alongside this anger emerged as a coping mechanism for our expectation system.
      I never denied any of this, as evident in my saying "If anger were useless, it... would be a random fluke, a vestigial response."

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Nothing favorable comes out of angry decision making.
      University of California psychological study from 2007. But regardless, your statement is far too sweeping a generality to be accurate.

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      One can be enthusiastic and accomplish action just as quickly.
      I never denied this. My intention was to show that anger has practical applications.

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Anger is selfish, its about what is owed you and what the world takes or with-holds from you.
      I do not understand why selfishness is bad (when used in moderation), but that's a different topic.
      Last edited by kookyinc; 11-12-2011 at 03:37 AM.
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      I don't usually think, therefore I mostly am not.
      Quote Originally Posted by abicus View Post
      You can not convince the one with faith who needs not look for fact that the facts "prove them wrong".
      Likewise, you cant teach some one who looks for facts to have faith in the absence of facts.

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