Discussion Eternality Practicality Dilemma

March 8, 2022
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Discussion Eternality Practicality Dilemma

Discussion Eternality Practicality Dilemma

A: THE PROMPT Identify and reconstruct, in your own words, Callard’s argument for the Eternality-Practicality Dilemma which she presents in The Reason To Be Angry Forever (uploaded on your course-page on iLearn), and provide a discussion and analysis of her solution (if any) to the dilemma.

B. EXPLANATION OF THE PROMPT 1. You are to reconstruct Callard’s Eternality-Practicality Argument in a premised form (showing each premise to which she is committed and how the conclusion of the dilemma follows from these premises). (a) Use the techniques for reconstructing a deductive argument which you have learned during this course. (b) Try to reconstruct the argument in the best or strongest light. (c) If there are any ambiguities, try to resolve them. (d) Your reconstruction of Callard’s premises should be clear and concise. It should be selfstanding, that is, it should not leave the reader in want of further explanation. 2. Once you have reconstructed her argument for the dilemma in a premised form, you should provide a discussion and your own analysis of the solution (if any) that she offers for it. This should be about 600-700 words max.

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We get angry for reasons—or, at any rate, for what we take to be reasons. If
asked “why are you angry?” you will cite something (that you think) someone did or failed to do. That action or omission is what you are angry about.
Getting angry is easy to understand: I wrong you, by, for example, betraying
your trust; you find out and that makes you angry, and now you are angry, at
me, for having betrayed you. What is harder to understand is why you might
cease to be angry.1
Consider what I will call “the eternal anger argument”:
P1: My betrayal of you at t1 is your reason for being angry with me at t2.
P2: If it is true at t2 that I betrayed you at t1, then it will also be true at t3, t4,
t5, and so on that I betrayed you at t1.
Conclusion: If you have a reason to be angry with me, you will have a reason
to be angry with me forever.
The argument says that if I have generated a reason for you to be angry with
me, then there is nothing I can now do to address that reason. For suppose
that I offer compensation, apologize profusely, promise never to do it again,
radically and convincingly transform my character. None of that seems to
touch the thing you are angry about, which is that, at t1, I wronged you. It is
still true that I did that, and it is still true that I shouldn’t have. Your reason
for anger is eternal because I can’t change what you are angry about.
If I could go back in time and un-wrong you, then I could eliminate the
grounds of your anger. Though it is impossible to change the past, it is possible to change someone’s understanding of the past. I could prove to you that
I never betrayed you or that I did it by accident or that I was forced to do it
by someone else. By revising your understanding of the past, I might succeed
Chapter 8
The Reason to Be Angry Forever
Agnes Callard
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in dissolving your anger or directing it away from myself. But I would be
doing so by showing you that you never had any reason to be angry with
me, because I never behaved badly in the first place, which leaves the eternal
anger argument standing: If you did have a reason, you’d have it forever.
The argument doesn’t purport to establish that anger is eternal or even
that it would be rational to be angry forever. Long-term anger is unpleasant,
unattractive, and exhausting; one has many reasons for bringing it about that
one’s anger cease. What the argument does try to show is that these reasons
must leave the original reason to be angry in place. If the argument works, it
follows that a person gives up his or her anger not because the issue has been
resolved or even addressed in any way but merely because, for example, he
or she sees that he or she will be better off in a nonangry condition. Pragmatic
reasons for ceasing to be angry have positive counterparts: pragmatic reasons
to get angry.2
(For example, I work myself into an angry state before entering
the car dealership, in the belief that a menacing appearance will put me in
an improved negotiating position.) If the eternal anger argument is correct,
proper (i.e., nonpragmatic) reasons for anger—reasons akin to those cited in
P1—have no negative counterparts.
THE PROBLEM-SOLVING ACCOUNT OF ANGER
On one popular account of anger, the eternal anger argument is unsound
because P1 is false. I will call this account the “problem-solving account.”
The problem-solving account maintains that your reason for being angry
with me is not simply the betrayal. Rather, your reason is constituted by
some continuing problem generated by the betrayal, a problem your anger
motivates you to resolve. On the problem-solving account, anger is desirelike: It responds to reasons to make (what the agent perceives as) a positive
change in the world. If the reasons to be angry are reasons to, for example,
take measures that prevent future violations of the relevant kind, then they
will not be eternal. Martha Nussbaum presents this as the correct account not
of anger as such but of a species of anger she calls “transition anger.”3
Others have argued that anger is an attempt to protest a threatening message, to
the effect that the victim is deserving of bad treatment;4
reverse the ongoing
misbehavior of a wrongdoer who, in failing to apologize, acts as though the
wrong were acceptable;5
get the wrongdoer to understand what he or she has
done;6
be restored to the status from which the wrongdoing demoted one;7
and
secure the wrongdoer’s commitment to the norm he or she violated.8
On such a view, what we are (really) angry at is not the wrongs themselves
but the fact that the wrongs are unapologized for, un-disavowed, and undetached from the meaning or message they now have but don’t necessarily
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The Reason to Be Angry Forever 125
need to have, or that the wrongdoers are uneducated, uncommitted, or unlowered in relative status. We’re angry not at the fact that the person violated
some norm but at the person’s present lack of commitment to that norm, or
the fact that the person is, by not apologizing, now behaving as if the wrong
was acceptable. It presents angry people as educators and normative crusaders, taking a stand against injustice in order to make the world a more perfect
realization of some normative order. Anger, on this picture, is productive
management of the aftershocks of the wrong action; it attempts to address and
mitigate the damage done.
I find this to be an overly sanguine picture of an emotion whose manifestations are not only often but characteristically destructive and cruel. To
take just one example, consider the fact that when we are angry at someone
we love, we are liable to say insulting things we don’t mean in order to
hurt them. Anger begets more anger as often as it begets apology; a patient,
calm, and angerless explanation of wrongdoing would typically have greater
educational promise than an angry outburst. If we are trying to solve normative problems—to make the world a better place—it looks as though we
have better tools at our disposal than anger. But my chief objection to the
problem-solving account obtains even if we set aside worries about the hyperoptimism of these accounts. The oldest version of the problem-solving view
is Aristotle’s, and it cannot be charged with sanguinity.
Anger may be defined as an impulse, accompanied by pain, to a conspicuous
revenge for a conspicuous slight directed without justification towards what
concerns oneself or towards what concerns one’s friends. . . . It must always
be attended by a certain pleasure—that which arises from the expectation of
revenge. For since nobody aims at what he thinks he cannot attain, the angry
man is aiming at what he can attain, and the belief that you will attain your aim
is pleasant. Hence it has been well said about wrath,
Sweeter it is by far than the honeycomb dripping with sweetness,
And spreads through the hearts of men.9
Aristotle understands anger as a desire for revenge: Anger aims to solve the
problem that the slight is unavenged. One must grant to Aristotle that if this
were a problem, anger would in fact be the way to solve it. Aristotle’s version of the problem-solving view pays heed to the peculiar efficacy of anger,
recognizing it as uniquely conducive to the accomplishment of revenge. If
one wanted someone to seek revenge, one would try to get him or her angry.
Nonetheless, I think that Aristotle cannot be right to identify revenge as the
object of anger. For we can imagine a strange character with a disposition
to take such pleasure from vengeance that he or she actively puts himself or
herself in circumstances where he or she would be likely to be wronged, so
AuQ125
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that he or she could thereupon avenge himself or herself. Such a person could
be said to have a desire for revenge against slights, full stop. The angry person is unlike the character I’ve just described. He or she only desires revenge
against slights because he or she has suffered a slight and is, in the first place,
angered by the slight. His or her desire for revenge isn’t identical to his or her
anger; it is explained by his or her anger.
Angry people are, of course, motivated to seek revenge or apology or restitution, and they are sometimes moved to prevent future infractions. But anger
does not, in the first instance, seem to be a response to the fact that some
wrong action hasn’t yet been avenged, apologized for, or disavowed, or that
it may recur in the future. Rather, it seems to be a way of concerning oneself
with the (unchangeable) fact that some wrong was done.
VALUATIONAL VULNERABILITY
The desire to vindicate anger as a moral emotion has led to a tendency to ignore
the violence, hatred, and vindictiveness to which anger renders us susceptible.10
Proponents of the problem-solving account may defend themselves by noting
that they were interested in a particular species of anger, namely righteous
or morally correct anger. But there is a real question whether, in picking out
this salutary kind of anger, they take themselves to have picked out features
that are essential to or revelatory of what anger is. For there are, for example,
cases of sadness where one is sad about some specifically moral failure, and
yet it would be a mistake to point to those cases as evidence that sadness is
a “moral emotion.” Even in the least “moral” cases—unjustified, irrational,
spiteful, petty, vengeful anger—the angry person feels what I think can rightly
be called a moral emotion. For he or she feels full to the brim with his or
her own rectitude. Correlatively, even in the most “moral” cases—righteous,
morally principled, justified anger—anger is not an attempt to fix what is
wrong. This is not, I will argue, because the problem cannot be fixed but
because the problem does not belong to the angry person, considered as such.
I suggest, then, that there is some reason not to restrict ourselves to some
privileged cases of “good anger” but to consider the emotion, warts and all.
Let me begin by situating it in a larger emotional context. Sometimes we
care about one thing because, in the first instance, we care about another
thing. Therefore, I may care that I arrive at the bus stop on time because I am
excited to meet you. In this example, both the primary and the secondary
objects of my care are good things. If I miss the bus, I will feel disappointed.
My disappointment constitutes my caring about something bad. Notice that
I care only that I missed the bus because I care, more fundamentally, about
something good (our reunion). Our care for good things makes us liable to the
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negative emotions by which we can, under the relevant circumstances, come
to care about bad things. It is part and parcel of being such as to have good
things really matter to you that you are also the kind of being to whom, under
unfortunate circumstances, bad things will also matter. I will call this feature
of the human experience valuational vulnerability.
Consider some more examples: Sadness at the prospect of emigration is a
sign of loving one’s homeland; my anger at his or her failure to call means our
friendship matters to me; fear of a low grade on the test is a product of commitment to academic excellence. Someone who, by contrast with these people,
lacked the relevant positive interests would also be invulnerable when the corresponding objects come under attack. The difference between such responses
marks a difference in values. For when someone cares deeply about his or her
friend, country, or education, we say that he or she values it. Unlike “caring,”
however, “valuing” is something that we do only in relation to things that we
take to be good.11 Hence you value our friendship, but you do not therefore
value my betrayal of you. Rather, we say that you care about my betrayal or
that it matters to you or that it has significance for you. And all of these facts
are obtained because our friendship is something you value—and something
that matters to you, that you care about, and that has significance for you.
Anger, fear, sadness, disappointment, jealousy—these are signs of caring.
Indeed, they are ways of caring. But they are not the primary ways, since valuing proper involves feeling positive emotions, emotions that respond to the
goodness of the good object. Our reasons for caring about bad things derive
from our reasons for valuing good things: The reason we have for being angry
or sad or afraid is the (potential) value damage at which our anger or sadness or
fear is directed. My love for my country manifests as sadness at the prospect of
departing from it. Love turns to sadness when its object is withdrawn. The paradigmatic form of valuing—joyful engagement with the valued object—is closed
off for such a person. The person’s concern for the good thing in question—the
object of value—manifests itself in the form of a concern for the injurious action
or event. The sad or angry person is thereby relegated to caring about bad things.
My anger at his or her failure to call is the only way in which my valuation of
our friendship can, under these nonideal circumstances, manifest itself.
If negative emotions are forms of valuational vulnerability, then your
reason for being in a negative emotional state is whatever rationalizes your
devolution from valuing proper to that negative emotional condition. In the
case of anger, this will be, for example, my betrayal. Your reason for ceasing to be angry will, likewise, be whatever rationally explains your transition back to the positive emotions characteristic of valuing. Thus, there may
be something—apology, reparation, (commitment to) character change,
acknowledgment of wrongdoing, revenge—that constitutes a reason for you
to cease being angry.
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But it is too fast to think that this general account of anger as a form of
valuational vulnerability solves our problem as to how anger can get rationally resolved. As we are about to see, the specter of the eternality argument
and the problem-solving view rises up as soon as we ask ourselves: What is
the rational relation between my reason for getting angry (i.e., my reason to
depart from valuing) and my reason for ceasing to be angry (i.e., my reason
to return to valuing)?
THE ETERNALITY-PRACTICALITY DILEMMA
Let us call your reason for getting angry R1 and your reason for ceasing to be
angry R2. It seems we are caught in the following dilemma:
Either
(i) R2 comes at a tangent to R1
or
(ii) R2 addresses R1
If (i), then you have a reason to be angry forever. If (ii), then the problemsolving view is correct.
Let me explain. In case (i), R2 leaves R1 standing. If your reason to cease
being angry is that anger impedes wealth acquisition or that you have a distaste for remaining angry, then your reason for ceasing to be angry has been
left unaddressed. Your financial or aesthetic reason for giving up your anger
doesn’t speak to the wrongness of what you experienced. Nothing has been
done about what you were angry about. Thus, it follows that your reason for
anger, R1, is eternal—even if your anger, as it happens, is not.
In case (ii), R2 resolves or addresses the problem picked out by R1.
Because the issue you were concerned about has been addressed, you no
longer have a reason for being angry. Thus, the advent of R2 marks the
elimination of R1. In this sort of a case, we can say that your anger sought
satisfaction all along—you were angry about something practicable. Your
anger was targeted at a positive change in the world, and when that change is
made, it constitutes a reason (R2), for you to cease being angry.
In order for R1 to be such as to lend itself to satisfaction, it seems it must
be anger about something practicable—something that can be changed.
Recall Aristotle: “For since nobody aims at what he thinks he cannot attain,
the angry man is aiming at what he can attain.” Problem-solvers feel the
need to posit something else—something other than what was done—as the
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true, that is, practicable, target of anger. The fact that I betrayed you cannot
constitute the totality of what you are angry about, for there is nothing I can
do about that fact. If what angers you is that I haven’t yet apologized for
betraying you, that I might betray you again, or that I don’t understand that
it was wrong to betray you, then your anger seems internally amenable to
remedial response.
There is, thus, a dilemma for the valuational vulnerability account of
anger I have just been presenting. Either your anger is exhausted by the fact
that you care about what I did, or it is not. In the first case, the best that
can happen is that I can distract you from this concern and get you to care
about something else—for example, how much money I’m offering for you
to take the anger-dissolution pill. But your concern, namely the fact that
I betrayed you, remains standing. It does and will stand at your disposal
forever, irrespective of anything I ever do or suffer, as a reason for being
angry with me.
Alternatively, your anger is not exhausted by the fact that you care about
what I did. Instead, we are to suppose that you care about what I did because
you care about something else more fundamentally, namely, our friendship.
You are angry at me for betraying you because my betrayal constitutes damage to something that you value and wish to see repaired. As soon as I take
the relevant reparatory steps (acknowledgment of wrongdoing, apology, selftransformation, etc.), I have satisfied your anger. Your concern is not so much
that I betrayed you but that we return to good terms.

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Both of these options are deeply unsatisfying. Reasons for anger are not
eternal. People who store away grievances for years only to “reactivate” them
when it is convenient to do so are not rational. They are displaying a vice: that
of holding a grudge. There ought to be something that counts, for them, as the
matter having been sufficiently dealt with. Even if they were right to be angry
in the first place, they are not right to continue to harbor the grievance. (I am
only claiming that there are some cases like this, not that it is never rational
to harbor a grievance.)
Nor does it seem true that the angry person seeks satisfaction or a return
to friendship. If you are really angry with me, the last thing you want is to
be friends again. After all, you are filled with anger. You are not seeking to
repair our relationship. Your coming to want this would be a sign that your
anger was on its way out. In the throes of anger, you are motivated to lash out
at me, to hurt me in the way that I hurt you. It does not seem true to say that
my betrayal stands proxy for some more fundamental concern. The thing you
really, fundamentally care about is the fact that I betrayed you.
Can it be true that reasons for anger are neither eternal nor practicable?
Yes. But in order to see how that is possible, we must locate these reasons in
the context of the relationships in which they are embedded.
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CO-VALUATION
Anger responds to someone’s violation of some norm. But, once again, we
are not upset by just any norm violations, only those that somehow touch on
our valuational projects. I propose that someone’s norm violation angers me
when that violation constitutes his or her defection from our shared valuational project. In this case, my valuational efforts are thwarted by my partner’s withdrawal of valuational support. Anger devolves from a special kind
of valuing: shared valuing.
Among the objects valued by human beings, some are, as I will put it,
“co-valued.” By “co-valuation” I intend the valuational counterpart to shared
agency;12 co-valuation is to be distinguished from two people severally valuing the same object. Suppose you and I severally value classical music—we
both happen to value it, though neither of us cares that the other does. At some
point, chance events lead us to form a friendship around classical music: We
begin to make efforts to attend performances together, discuss music, buy
each other musically themed gifts, and so on. Our co-valuation of music is
different—richer—than our separate valuation was. We can enjoy music in
a new way because we now are in a position to enjoy it together. When we
value music together, we spend time together, we perform activities together,
and we rely on each other: We have a relationship. The word “relationship”
can be used in many ways, but I think it is not implausible to claim that one of
its core meanings is simply to designate a case of co-valuation. When you and
I are in a relationship, we coordinate our shared valuing by way of explicit
or (more usually) implicit rules—norms—that constitute our relationship as
the particular form of co-valuation it is. We each manifest our co-valuation
of that relationship in the adherence to the relevant set of norms. These norms
are the backbone of our relationship; by following them, we value it.
Anger is occasioned by actions that, in violating those norms, constitute
defections from such co-valuational activity. My violation of a norm constitutive of our relationship is a failure to care about what we can only care
about together. When I defect, I reduce you to anger. Anger is the form that
your co-valuation of our relationship takes in response to the action by which
I (seem to you to) withdraw from co-valuing with you. Because you cannot
care (value) together with me, you care about (are angered by) it.
My failure to, for example, do the laundry or remember your birthday
angers you because in violating the norms of our relationship—“you, of all
people, are supposed to remember!”—I leave you in the valuational lurch.
Let me introduce the term “disvalue” to describe such a failure to value.
Disvaluation will take different forms in different relationships, and these
different forms will track the norms of the respective relationships. When my
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behavior violates a norm, adherence to which is constitutive of valuing our
relationship, I give you grounds for anger. Let me consider a few examples.
If I fail to read the paper my student submitted to me, I thereby disvalue our
student–teacher relationship. If I ignore a colleague’s objection to my proposal in a faculty meeting, I disvalue our professional relationship. My passing comment on my spouse’s weight gain can be a source of anger because
mutual sexual attraction is part of how we value our romantic relationship. If
I falsely testify against you in a court of law, or if I engage in discriminatory
hiring or commercial practices at your expense, I disvalue our relationship as
fellow citizens. If I rob you, rape you, or kill you, I disvalue our relationship
as fellow human beings.13 Even small “injustices” such as cutting someone
off at an intersection or pushing past someone in line constitutes disvaluation of my relationship with the people around me. When I do these things,
I thereby defect from a shared valuing practice: I refrain from holding up my
end of the valuational burden, making it impossible for you to hold up yours
in any way other than anger.14
Sometimes, having done one of these things, I present you with an excuse.
Excuses constitute explanations of why, in a given case, some failure to fulfill a norm does not constitute a true or full violation of the norm. I didn’t
read my student’s paper because my computer died; my comment about your
weight was a stupid joke—I am no less attracted to you than I ever was; I fail
to acknowledge my colleague’s point because, being momentarily distracted,
I did not notice that he had spoken; I drove recklessly because I was rushing
an injured person to the emergency room. The person offering the excuse
presents special circumstances under which his or her nonfulfillment of
norms of some relationship, nonetheless, fails to constitute a defection from
valuing.15 My excuse attempts to dispel your anger, by convincing you that
you don’t have, and never did have, any reason to be angry with me. (Though
it was reasonable that you believed you did: I am providing you with the
information necessary for you to recognize that what appeared to be a norm
violation was merely a failure to fulfill the norm.) When I make an excuse,
I deny any failure to hold up my end of the valuational project. Notice that
apology is different from excuse. When I apologize, I am granting that you
had and have a reason to be angry with me: I violated a norm constitutive of
our relationship and thereby disvalued it.
Assuming, that I have no excuse, my disrespectful or thoughtless or cruel
action truly does constitute a disvaluation of our relationship. In response,
your valuation of our relationship rightly devolves into a concern for—that is,
anger about—my action. You should care that I did that. My defection from
our co-valuing rationally transforms yours into anger. What comes next?
How can I give you reason to stop caring that I did that?
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In the next section, I explain how the shared nature of the valuational vulnerability characteristic of anger helps us resolve the eternality-practicality
dilemma.
RATIONAL RESOLUTION OF ANGER
We can put the dilemma as follows: If your reason for ceasing to be angry is
going to escape eternality, it must be such as to be able to be addressed by
whatever subsequent action or event would constitute a response to it. And
this means that you must be angry about something practicable, which is to
say, something that allows for there to be conditions under which your anger
is “satisfied.” Your anger must have terms for resolution so that those terms
can be met. Otherwise, it is eternal.
But this dilemma is not exhaustive. Notice, first, that there is some space
between, on the one hand, addressing your reason for being angry and, on the
other hand, addressing your reason by satisfying it. Desires are capable of satisfaction, in that they anticipate what would address them. Likewise, we can
say that an assertion or a command has satisfaction conditions, in that it tells
you what the world would have to be like in order for it to be, respectively,
true or obeyed. Something is amenable to satisfaction when the shape of the
proper or fitting response is written into that to which it responds. But proper
responses cannot always be, in this way, anticipated.
Consider questions—genuine questions. When I ask you something, and
I truly want to know the answer, your rational response doesn’t “satisfy” my
question. It seems appropriate to speak of satisfaction in the case of those
less-than-genuine questions in which the asker is out to discover something
other than the answer, for example, whether the respondent knows the
answer. In what are not my proudest moments as a teacher, I ask my students
a question expecting a specific answer, for which I proceed to fish until I find
the person who will say what I was looking to hear. Why, the students seem
to be wondering, am I performing this elaborate act of ventriloquism, having
them say my thoughts? (Indeed.) Those are not real questions. Real questions
do not “test” a person. Instead, they hand over to the answerer the job of providing the content of the answer. They cannot be satisfied precisely because
the asker takes himself or herself to be in some way defective—the asker
doesn’t know what he or she wants the interlocutor to say, which is precisely
why he or she is asking a question.
Anger is, like a genuine question, amenable to a fitting response without
being satisfiable. Let me argue for this point by way of what I take to be one
fitting response to anger: apology.16 If I say, “Ok, I’m sorry, now are you satisfied?!” it’s likely that you won’t be. If I am saying what I think you want to
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hear, it won’t be what you want to hear. You don’t want to be satisfied. The
“sorry” of apology is no bloodless and abstract concession of rectitude—it
is not: “You win. You’re right and I’m wrong.” Like sadness and anger,
being sorry is a way of caring about an evil. When I express contrition, I am
telling you not only that you are right to feel the way you do but that, in a
certain sense, I feel it too. Just as my action made its mark on you, devolving
your love into anger, so too it made its mark on me: My disvaluation of our
relationship is something that matters to me. In order to become angry with
me, you must have cared about our relationship; in order to feel sorry, I must
likewise have cared. If I am sincere, then my expression of contrition springs
from the same place as your anger: value. This is wh

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