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Martha C. Nussbaum: Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, and Justice

Book Review by Preston King

Martha C. Nussbaum. Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, and Justice. Oxford University Press, 2016. ISBN: 0199335877 (hardcover)

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King, P. (2017) Review of Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, and Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum. AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies, 4:1, pp. 41-45. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/23


Everyone gets angry (at times). Anger is a sentiment, a measure of discontent. It is a sentiment the holder may repress or express, and if express, then in different degrees. (Let us not count the ways!) But anger at least is not rage. If we are attending to rage, let’s please not call it ‘anger’. Anger in se and in nub has nothing accordingly to do with forgiveness. Repressed, anger remains a sort of camp fire; it is no forest fire; and it can be dealt with simply, in a variety of ways, all as ‘natural’ as anger itself. For a start, being reflected upon, it can be put out. It can be cut across, as by a cool head, one that extinguishes the thing where it laps at what it shouldn’t. As a mere nub or nudge, anger can have no impact. If anger is repressed, leaves no evidential trail, no signal of or for it, then it can neither please nor offend, not a second party or a third. Anger unknown, neutralizing both joy and hurt, is a river away from the idea of forgiveness. What is there to forgive?

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