Volume 37, 2021
Respect, Social Action, and #MeToo
Oppositional Anger: Aptness Without Appreciation
What makes anger an appropriate response to systemic injustice? Let us assume that it cannot merely be its positive effects. That is, sometimes we should be angry even when getting angry is bound to make things worse. What makes such anger appropriate? According to Amia Srinivasan (2017), counterproductive anger is only apt if it passes a necessary condition that I call the Matching Constraint: one’s personal reason for getting angry must match the fact that justifies their anger. When the Matching Constraint is satisfied, anger can be an intrinsically worthwhile way of affectively appreciating injustice. I argue that the Matching Constraint is incorrect. More precisely, I take issue with its status as a necessary condition on apt anger. Anger can be an apt response to injustice even when it fails to be a form of affective appreciation. Often enough, one does not know why they are angry, or one is not angry for the reason that justifies their anger. For all that, it may still be appropriate for them to be angry. After presenting several cases of apt anger that fail the Matching Constraint, I suggest an alternative standard for aptness based on the general function of anger in our psychology. On my view, anger is apt when and because it alerts one, however coarsely or crudely, to threats against one’s values.