This essay takes a fresh approach to a traditional Western philosophical account of anger, according to which anger is best defined as a desire for payback, namely, a desire to make an offender pay a price, in the currency of unwanted pain, for the pain he caused someone else. The essay focuses more specifically on the work of Thomas Aquinas, whose account of anger is often thought to center on a desire for ‘just vengeance.’ It analyzes and extends aspects of Aquinas’s account that have previously been treated too narrowly. It distinguishes three forms of anger, each of which has important features in common, which justify characterizing it as
anger. Only one of these forms involves a desire to make an offender suffer for what he did. Even as this essay argues for articulating different forms of anger, it emphasizes the fluidity of anger’s forms, features, and relationships to other emotions. It briefly engages philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific perspectives while working principally in the domain of religious ethics and moral psychology.
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