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Aristotle on Anger, Justice and Punishment

Christensen, NA; (2017) Aristotle on Anger, Justice and Punishment. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis presents a new reading of Aristotle’s account of anger. In the Rhetoric, Aristotle defines anger as a painful desire for revenge caused by a perceived undeserved slight. I propose that we understand slights not, as is common in scholarship, in a narrow sense of insult or social denigration, but as injustice. Specifically, under this reading a slight is an act, which expresses a lack of concern for the moral worth of another person. To be slighted, then, is to be the subject of an injustice performed with a specific attitude of neglect or disdain for one’s moral deserts; and a slight is painful, not simply when is involves harm, but because it is painful to see one’s moral deserts disregarded in this way. Corresponding to this conception of slight, I propose that Aristotle’s notion of revenge is best conceived as a measure of rectificatory justice. When we desire revenge, we desire that the offender suffer for his infraction, and that he suffer in a proportionate way to the suffering he has caused us. This, however, does not amount to a simplistic form of retributivism. On the contrary, Aristotle’s theory of punishment is sensitive to both retributive and reformative aims of punishment and contains the ingredients for reconciliation of these. Specifically, I suggest that revenge for Aristotle requires that the offender feel a kind of pain that corresponds to the pain caused by the slight. So since the angry person feels the pain of suffering injustice the offender should as a result of revenge feel the pain of being the author injustice. Hence, the offender’s successful punishment, i.e. the victim’s revenge, presupposes at least his partial reformation; that he recognises his mistake as such and regrets it.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: Aristotle on Anger, Justice and Punishment
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Ancient Philosophy, Aristotle, Emotions, Anger, Punishment, Justice
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1557934
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