Buddhists and Stoics say that anger is the most destructive emotion and ought to be extirpated. Fans of anger say it is natural, an adaptation, and that it can’t possibly be extirpated. What weight should we give in moral arguments to claims that some trait is natural? Is it, in fact, true that anger is an adaptation in the biological sense? Are adaptations, traits that are good for fitness, also morality good? Could a trait that is good for fitness be morally bad all things considered? I defend the view that anger or something like it might be an adaptation in the historical sense, but it is probably not an adaptation in the modern history sense. And in any case it is not a good disposition to activate if one is concerned with happiness, flourishing, or goodness.
OWEN FLANAGAN is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA and works in the philosophy of mind and moral philosophy. He is the author of two classics: Varieties of Moral Personality (Harvard, 1991) and Consciousness Reconsidered (MIT Press, 1992). He is the author, most recently, of The Geography of Morals (Oxford 2016), and is especially interested in what non-Western philosophy can teach us. This event was organised by the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion in collaboration with the project, “Evolution, Ethics, and Human Origins” at Oxford Brookes University