Oct 21, 2012

Plato's Treatment of Anger

In my last post, I brought up the emotional response of anger as a topic tangentially touched on -- but never worked out in systematic detail by Plato.  Not surprisingly, given the master dialogue-writer's skill  not only in leading the reader through complexities of dialectic, but in bringing before our eyes living characters, believable situations -- the sorts of encounters and exchanges in which moral discussion so often does take place -- anger does get mentioned in a variety of contexts within many of his dialogues.  I dedicated the last post mainly to enumerating instances of anger, to classifying those instances, and then to examining two sides of the same coin: who gets angry (or could get angry) in the dialogues, and who does not get angry (even though they could have)?

This follow-up post intends to dig deeper into the Plato's texts and thought, determining just how much of a systematic theoretical perspective on anger could actually be derived from those scattered passages.  It's certainly nothing as well-developed or complex as, say, Aristotle's treatment, nor for that matter even one comparable to Epictetus' Stoic perspective -- but it's nevertheless of interest.  Plato only briefly discusses what we might call the "somatic mechanics" of the passion. But he does devote some thought to the psychological workings of anger -- how it arises, what part of our soul or personality it arises within, why people become and stay angry -- and he does consider moral dimensions of it as well -- including questions such as: Is anger a bad or good thing? When should or shouldn't we be angry? -- but also extending to the very connection between anger and moral values.