What is it about certain situations that makes anger, hate or rage morally justified (beyond merely being excusable)?

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being angry at horrible crimes and indeed it is wrong not to be angry on such occasions. Any philosophy that calls on its adherents to put aside ordinary and appropriate emotions has something very wrong about it.

Anger is normal, but it is important to take responsibility for the effects of one's anger. Anger or rage can never justify actions that inflict harm on others. Why? Well, because we are not terribly aware of what triggers such destructive power, but often the real target is not the person or object we are responding to. Take, for example, road rage. Some persons blast their horns and flip persons off - all out of anger that is often misdirected. That's an easy case, but think how anger at a spouse - that may be morally justified - often gets directed at the family dog, or worse, the children. There is little universality about anger/rage as a human feeling - and yet what triggers you may not trigger me. This suggests to me that our moral outrage tells us more about ourselves than about the world and objective moral evils in it. I am willing to grant exceptions such as the holocaust, but the need to invoke Nazi's is always a sign of a weak argument.

Professor Leaman is correct of course: human emotion is not under voluntary control and therefore not a rational enterprise. Philosophy cannot tell us how to feel! Be sure to note that he is referring to feelings evoked over horrible crimes, and I fully agree. Nonetheless, what moral agents do with their anger needs critical examination. Any philosophy that can help us take a broader view and thus set aside our anger, say at the traffic making me late to work - even if it is caused by human wrong doing - is not necessarily wrong. In fact, it seems like a very good thing indeed.

-bjm

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