Chapter 3 – Calmness, as opposed to Anger

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Since growing calm is the opposite of growing angry, and calmness the opposite of anger, we must ascertain in what frames of mind men are calm, towards whom they feel calm, and by what means they are made so.  Growing calm may be defined as a settling down or quieting of anger.

[The people we feel calm toward.] 

  • Now we get angry with those who slight us; and since slighting is a voluntary act, it is plain that we feel calm towards those who do nothing of the kind, or who do or seem to do it involuntarily.
  • Also towards those who intended to do the opposite of what they did do. Also towards those who treat themselves as they have treated us: since no one can be supposed to slight himself.
  • Also towards those who admit their fault and are sorry: since we accept their grief at what they have done as satisfaction, and cease to be angry. The punishment of servants shows this: those who contradict us and deny their offence we punish all the more, but we cease to be incensed against those who agree that they deserved their punishment. The reason is that it is shameless to deny what is obvious, and those who are shameless towards us slight us and show contempt for us: anyhow, we do not feel shame before those of whom we are thoroughly contemptuous.
  • Also we feel calm towards those who humble themselves before us and do not gainsay us; we feel that they thus admit themselves our inferiors, and inferiors feel fear, and nobody can slight any one so long as he feels afraid of him. That our anger ceases towards those who humble themselves before us is shown even by dogs, who do not bite people when they sit down.
  • We also feel calm towards those who are serious when we are serious, because then we feel that we are treated seriously and not contemptuously.
  • Also towards those who have done us more kindnesses than we have done them.
  • Also towards those who pray to us and beg for mercy, since they humble themselves by doing so.
  • Also towards those who do not insult or mock at or slight any one at all, or not any worthy person or any one like ourselves.

The things that make us calm may, in general, be inferred by seeing what the opposites are of those that make us angry.

  1. We are not angry with people we fear or respect, as long as we fear or respect them; you cannot be afraid of a person and also at the same time angry with him.
  2. Again, we feel no anger, or comparatively little, with those who have done what they did through anger: we do not feel that they have done it from a wish to slight us, for no one slights people when angry with them, since slighting is painless, and anger is painful.
  3. Nor do we grow angry with those who reverence us.

As to the frame of mind that makes people calm, it is plainly the opposite to that which makes them angry:

  • As when they are amusing themselves or laughing or feasting;
  • when they are feeling prosperous or successful or satisfied;
  • when, in fine, they are enjoying freedom from pain, or inoffensive pleasure, or justifiable hope.
  • Also when time has passed and their anger is no longer fresh, for time puts an end to anger.
  • And vengeance previously taken on one person puts an end to even greater anger felt against another person. Hence Philocrates, being asked by some one, at a time when the public was angry with him, “Why don’t you defend yourself?” did right to reply, “The time is not yet.” “Why, when is the time?” “When I see someone else calumniated.” For men become calm when they have spent their anger on somebody else. This happened in the case of Ergophilus: though the people were more irritated against him than against Callisthenes, they acquitted him because they had condemned Callisthenes to death the day before.
  • Again, men become calm if they have convicted the offender; or if the offender has already suffered worse things than they in their anger would have themselves inflicted upon him; for they feel as if they were already avenged.
  • Or if they feel that they themselves are in the wrong and are suffering justly (for anger is not excited by what is just), since men no longer think then that they are suffering without justification; and anger, as we have seen, means this.  Hence we ought always to inflict a preliminary punishment in words: if that is done, even slaves are less aggrieved by the actual punishment.
  • We also feel calm if we think that the offender will not see that he is punished on our account and because of the way he has treated us. For anger has to do with individuals. This is plain from the definition. Hence the poet has well written:

Say that it was Odysseus, sacker of cities,

implying that Odysseus would not have considered himself avenged unless the Cyclops perceived both by whom and for what he had been blinded. Consequently we do not get angry with any one who cannot be aware of our anger, and in particular we cease to be angry with people once they are dead, for we feel that the worst has been done to them, and that they will neither feel pain nor anything else that we in our anger aim at making them feel. And therefore the poet has well made Apollo say, in order to put a stop to the anger of Achilles against the dead Hector,

For behold in his fury he doeth despite to the senseless clay.

It is now plain that when you wish to calm others you must draw upon these lines of argument; you must put your hearers into the corresponding frame of mind, and represent those with whom they are angry as formidable, or as worthy of reverence, or as benefactors, or as involuntary agents, or as much distressed at what they have done.

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Published on June 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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