Provocation and Responsibility

By Jeremy Horder | Go to book overview

4
Anger as Outrage

it is easy to get angry--anyone can do that . . . but to feel or act towards the right person to the right extent at the right time for the right reason in the right way . . . is a rare, laudable, and fine achievement.1

We now know that the theoretical foundations of the law's condescension in provocation cases are best explained in terms of conformity to and departure from two virtues connected with anger, even-temperedness and retributive justice. People cannot claim the benefit of the doctrine of provocation unless they have been provoked into anger when they killed: that is the relevance of the defendant's display of even-temperedness as a virtue, becoming angry at the right time with the right person to the right extent.

Nor can people claim the benefit of the doctrine if, in their retaliation, they go too far beyond the proportion of the provocation, beyond the mean in point of the virtue of retributive justice. The discovery that the operation of the doctrine of provocation can be analysed in terms of conformity to and departure from these two virtues yields a conception of anger underpinning the doctrine. I shall call this conception of anger 'outrage'.


1. WHAT Is ANGER?

In provocation cases defendants have displayed anger; but anger is not itself a virtue.2 In this regard, Aristotle draws an important distinction between simple 'feelings' and more complex 'dispositions'. Dispositions are conditions or states of character, by reason of which, inter alia, we are well- or illdisposed as far as feelings and associated actions are concerned.3 As we have seen, a good state of character respecting feeling and action is a virtue: the disposition to display feeling and action in a mean, right, or proper way. The two virtues I have hitherto said to be associated with anger are eventemperedness and retributive justice.

So what precisely is anger? This question must be approached largely through an analysis of Aristotle's account of the feeling, judgment, and

____________________
1
AristotleNE 1109a29.
2
Aristotle defines anger as a psychic state: see NE 1105b19 ff.
3
See generally NE bk. 2. v, vi.

-59-

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Provocation and Responsibility
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Introduction vi
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Table of Statutes xiii
  • Table of Cases xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The Early Centuries Of Development 5
  • 2- The Seventeenth Century 23
  • 3- Honour, Anger, and Virtue 43
  • 4- Anger as Outrage 59
  • 5- The Rise of Loss Of Self-Control 72
  • 6- Justifying Mitigation Morally 111
  • 8- Excusing Action in Anger 156
  • 9- Anger, Mitigation, and Gender 186
  • References 199
  • Index 205
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