Martha Nussbaum, "What Is Anger, and Why Should We Care?"

"Although everyone is familiar with the damage anger can do in both personal and public life, people tend to think that it is necessary for the pursuit of justice.  People who don't get angry when they are wronged seem weird to many people, lacking spine and self-respect.  And isn't it servile not to react with anger to great injustice, whether toward oneself or toward others?  On the other hand, recent years have seen three noble and successful freedom movements conducted in a spirit of non-anger: those of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela -- surely people who stood up for their self-respect and that of others, and who did not acquiesce in injustice.  My lecture argues that a close philosophical analysis of the emotion of anger can help us to see why it is fatally flawed from a normative viewpoint -- sometimes incoherent and sometimes based on bad values. In either case it is of dubious value in both life and the law.  I'll present my general view, and then show its relevance to thinking well about the criminal law and about transformational justice."

Martha Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded January 14, 2014 as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series.