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Moral outrage: Evil or necessary?


Hi Don

On the question of seeing moral outrage as evil or good (page 19), through some personal experiences, I've become curious about the nature and components of moral outrage itself. I'll argue that "moral outrage" contains elements of:

-judgement. Judgement is a requirement of everyday life. I must judge whether this banana or that banana is appropriately ripe. I must judge whether this person or another person is best suited for a job. I must judge which person best understands a subject area, or which of two actions will create a constructive outcome when dealing with conflict.

-speaking on behalf of another ("moralism"). Moral Outrage goes further than simple judgement in that it is felt and expressed on behalf of someone else. We are outraged on behalf of a moral "God", or "the children" or "the oppressed", or "the other". As such, the judgement is "absolute truth" - so radically correct and obvious that we need not hold ourselves accountable for it - and hence are blind to its impact

-anger & rage. Rage is merely a powerful emotion coursing through our bodies. It can drive valuable physiological changes such as adrenaline production, or help us focus our attention.

What then is outrage? Is it rage out of bounds ("an act of wanton cruelty or violence")? Is it rage originating out-side ourselves ("a powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult or injustice")?

In a less dramatic and more personal sense, I have recently encountered extreme reactions (in myself and others) towards personality differences and flaws. How can this person begin a project when the desired outcome is not well defined? How dare that person say one thing in one meeting and a different thing in another? Yes, it is important to perceive and make judgements about these things. But moral outrage clouds our ability to see and act creatively in these scenarios. Rather than villifying a person, we could alternatively observe their intent, and note the various ways in which various emotional issues and flaws obstruct their progress.

I argue then that judgement and anger are "good", while moralism and outrage are "evil". We need neither of the later to confront slavery or execute Hitler.