- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 2, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199335877
- ISBN-13: 978-0199335879
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.3 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice 1st Edition
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"Written with her usual mix of grace, precision, passion, and breathtaking scope, Nussbaum probes two seemingly polar emotions underlying our notions of justice-anger and forgiveness. She finds them part of the same vindictive drama, and each problematic. Her call is to move beyond them to become 'strange sorts of people, part Stoic and part creatures of love.' The book offers an important and timely challenge, a most worthwhile and enlightening read for those interested in philosophy, psychology, law, politics, religion-or simply living in today's world." --C. Daniel Batson, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Kansas
"This superlative study bristles with insights unexplored either in philosophy or the social sciences. These include conceptual comparisons among Gandhi, King and Mandela in the contexts of anger and forgiveness, violence and nonviolence. Nussbaum has long excelled as a philosopher and her abundant talent continues on display, enhanced by contemporary political analysis. She reveals how these leaders of mass movements diagnosed the roots of anger and violence in fear and then actualized prescriptions of forgiveness. Nussbaum thus extends in new directions important ideas advanced in her more recent books. This unique corpus of theory makes her work compulsory reading for an understanding of our politics and society today." --Dennis Dalton, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University and author of Mahatma Gandhi. Nonviolent Power in Action (2012)
"This book compels human rights activists to consider the move for activism, distinguishing between 'magical thinking' which the author rejects in favor of a rational approach to crime and punishment, where payback lowering of status have no role to play in defining a theory of justice. 'Transformative anger' is rooted in a theory of public good and social welfare, its revolutionary potential revealed by the author. In politics it is the difference between a repressive regime and a progressive one. Referring to revolutionary moments in history that changed the wrong doer and the wronged, the author explains the limited role that anger played while moving towards social good." --Indira Jaising, The Lawyer's Collective, India
"This stunning book unsettles the foundations of political thought and practice in places like South Africa where anger is routinely dismissed as unproductive and forgiveness as inescapably part of an inherited humanity (Ubuntu). By linking the thought of ancient Greeks to that of contemporary activists such as King, Mandela and Ghandi, Martha Nussbaum creates new grounds for human encounter in which anger can be rediscovered as resource, and forgiveness set free from the logic of retribution." --Jonathan D. Jansen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, South Africa
"I'm astonished and delighted. A self-styled upper middle class [ex]-WASP American, using intuitions drawn from Classical Greek and Roman literature and modern philosophy, explains better than most historians and political scientists how in South Africa we converted the sword of apartheid into the ploughshare of constitutional democracy. Brava, Martha, brava! Payback is not the way to go." --Albie Sachs, South African freedom fighter, writer and Constitutional Court Justice
"This book represents an all-encompassing model to expand the current understanding of justice, anger and forgiveness...her argument permeates the logic of
ethics, providing a fresh alternative to discussion in academic fields and specialized literature." -- Maximiliano E Korstanje, International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies
About the Author
Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Law School and the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Love's Knowledge, Sex and Social Justice, and Philosophical Interventions, all from Oxford University Press, as well as Not for Profit, Upheavals of Thought, Creating Capabilities and Frontiers of Justice, among others. This book derives from her 2014 John Locke Lectures in Philosophy at Oxford University.
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Anger, she argues, includes not just awareness of a serious wrong but also a desire that the wrongdoer suffer. This can happen two ways, either by payback or by lowering the wrongdoer's status. Both payback and down-ranking are problematic because they focus backward. Nussbaum argues for the forward-looking emotion she calls Transition, which is future-directed toward action that is less concerned with payback or down-ranking and instead inspires or motivates one to pursue a greater good.
Forgiveness is the subtheme, often distorted into a transaction that does not pursue a greater good but instead reinforces the imbalance that makes anger so problematic to begin with. the Christian tradition is rife with theological perspectives rooted in a transactional understanding of anger and forgiveness, justified by appeals to the anger of God or proverbial admonitions to be slow to anger, not rash. Penance and contrition have their place. But the forward-facing, unconditional forgiveness that waives anger is better. Better still is unconditional love and generosity. Nussbaum examines transactional forgiveness in personal, social, and political realms and concludes that the transactional path is not the one that leads in the end toward generosity, justice, and truth.
Nussbaum's caution about anger's efficacy to bring about justice stands in contrast against much that is written about anger in the therapeutic realm. Family systems analysts examine the triangular functioning of anger in maintaining unjust equilibrium in interpersonal relationships. Anger may serve a helpful function in differentiating the non-anxious presence who then can break generational patterns of neglect or abuse. Narrative therapies find anger helpful in rewriting a patient's story and grant control/authorship of his or her life. While anger may be misdirected, explosive, suppressed, or otherwise harmful, if can as well get our attention like a fever does, indicating that something is wrong that needs to be made right. Anger, as pastoral counselor Andrew Lester points out [Anger: Discovering your Spiritual Ally (2007)], can help us detect and uncover our idols, hidden guilt and shame, and thus clear the path so we can imagine our future stories with hope. Nussbaum would agree at least that anger "may serve as a signal that something is amiss." As a wake-up call, even as a deterrent, it serves a function. but fails to motivate unless it moves beyond the transactional and motivates us toward the common good.
Her claim is in fact as radical as she says: "that in a sane and not excessively anxious and status focused person, angers idea of retribution or payback is a brief dream or cloud, soon dispelled by saner thoughts of personal and social welfare." Well-grounded anger puts itself out of business in its healthier form, becoming "compassionate hope." This is the Transition that moves beyond payback to pursue justice.
Page numbers are from the Oxford University Press hardcover edition, 2016.
In the words of blurber C. Daniel Batson, Nussbaum calls upon us “to become strange sorts of people, part Stoic and part creatures of love.” Strange indeed, and I am not sure even possible. The Stoics advised against forming attachments, and therefore being able to take losses without distress. Can one form strong attachments, as Nussbaum wants us to do, and not take their loss with anger, especially when it is caused by someone else's malice, recklessness, or narcissism? Nussbaum condemns anger and a desire for payback as backward looking, but so is grief, which she does allow us. I have had a number of people make similar arguments to me, but I have never seen anyone actually live by their own advice. I have tried to train myself not to get angry over small things, and I find it worthwhile. Nevertheless, I believe that anger can be very useful, if carefully controlled, and, like other social skills, exercised with an eye on the consequences. Even Nussbaum is forced to back off a bit with her discussion of Transition-anger, well-grounded anger, and anger as motivation,
There are two major problems with Nussbaum's arguments. She asserts that all problems fall into either the category of things so trivial that they can be ignored, or so serious that the authorities will deal with them with no further input from the victim. False on both counts.
In her section on the Middle Realm, “realm of the multitude of daily transactions we have with people and social groups who are not our close friends and are also not our political institutions or their official agents” (p. 7) she counsels us to ignore slights and other trivia. She recommends turning to the law for “well-being damage.” (p. 164) Alas, the law does not cover all such cases. It is within my own lifetime that protection has been extended to cases involving race, ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation. It does not cover bullying bosses such as I had at one point. He lied, he publicly attacked people, he tried to arrange to take all the credit while pushing the blame off on other people. One member of our office did file an EEO complaint, but it was denied on the grounds that while he definitely treated her badly, he treated everyone badly, and therefore could not be said to be discriminating. The people above him in the chain of command either explicitly said that they didn't care, or it wasn't their responsibility. Our reputations, our resources, and our jobs were on the line. When I am angry, I think faster, I am bolder, and more focused. I don't think we could have dealt with him without controlled anger, and a unity in sharing ways to outmaneuver him.
If it does go to the law, Nussbaum talks as if all trouble and responsibility have been taken off the victim. In fact, the victim is generally just beginning an ordeal; they have to gather information; show up as a witness; show up repeatedly as a witness if the court happens not to get to them in a timely fashion. As a parole officer I know said, no-one cares about the victims. If they have a choice between showing up (again) after another delay, and losing their job, that's their problem. An excellent temporary co-worker, who was trying to get a restraining order against an abusive spouse, and was required to make court appearances on short notice, was almost fired until we persuaded our boss (a different boss from above) that she really, really needed to be granted some slack. The victims / witnesses may face a very long delay until the authorities get around to the case. They may have to discuss deep hurts in public. The defense lawyer may attack them, the perpetrator may taunt them. A television debate was arranged with the mother of a man who had been shot dead by a stranger in front of his family. Although he had been tried and convicted three times, the family was facing a possible fourth trial on mental and technical grounds. How, she asked, was the family to get over his death when the state required them to keep reliving it? At this point, the family wasn't just angry with the murderer.
Martha Nussbaum ends her book with: “I hesitate to end with a slogan that surely betrays my age: but, after so many centuries of folly orchestrated by the retributive spirits, it finally does seem time to 'give peace a chance.' ” I had her dated in the early parts of her book. Her ideas remind me of Karl Menninger and Hugo Bedau and others of that ilk. I often wondered whether their philosophy was as much a desire for a better judicial system as a desire to deny the existence of evil. I think that these kind of ideas and the high crime rate in the 1960s explains the subsequent rise in the popularity of the death sentence, and the institution of victim impact statements, although that was certainly not the intention. I think that a lot of people lost confidence in the justice system. (For myself, I think it vacillates between being too easy on offenders and running over their rights.) Susan Jacoby, in her excellent book Wild Justice: The Evolution of Revenge, makes that point that judicial systems arise at least in part because private revenge can become very disruptive to society. Although many are shocked to hear me say this, I think it follows from that that the public, especially in a democracy must feel that over all, they are getting justice or they are likely to revert. I strongly recommend Jacoby's book, especially for those who are doubtful of Nussbaum's thesis.
Implicit and sometimes explicit in many of their ideas was the assumption that the victim was a privileged person with every resource at hand for dealing with the impact of crimes, whereas the perpetrator was assumed to be a disadvantaged person unable to control his or her behavior. Nussbaum seems to share in this attitude, demanding that the victim abandon their “narcissistic anger” and focusing heavily on the need to maintain the dignity of the criminal. How then to explain middle- and upper-class white men behaving badly?
I certainly support Nussbaum in fighting crime by social welfare measures; I believe that we owe it to all our children to get them to adulthood in the best health and with the best education that we can manage. Talking about rehabilitation in dealing with the remaining crime is a nice slogan, but I have not seen evidence that we are able to rehabilitate someone without their cooperation. People sometimes accomplish amazing acts of self-reformation, but even that can be very hard.
I find Nussbaum's writing somewhat “stiff”; I had the mental image of trying to walk through a field of mature corn without a machete. I was particularly taken by the phrase “linguistically formulable proposition.” (p.253) Furthermore, her contempt and lack of compassion for the victims of crime thoroughly alienated me. I am also not taking relationship advice from someone who thinks that love is never having to say you're sorry. (Talk about dating one's self.) She also attempted the “we” trick, i.e., she switches from the first person to the second as if this will make the reader think that she has convinced us: “'we' have rejected payback” (p.192), or “'our' ideas of the 'transition'.” (p. 203) She can speak for herself. For all the philosophy that she cherry-picks, I think that her argument comes down to insisting that her beliefs are correct, without being very convincing.
Believe it or not, this is only part of what I would have liked to have said, but I'll cut it off here without getting to the subjects of forgiveness or payback or her analysis of the Oresteia.. There are, however, a number of excellent reviews covering some of these topics, and I recommend reading them. I was going to read Nussbaum's, Political Emotions in connection with this book, as recommended by another reviewer, but I have lost interest, but the reader may want to consider it.
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