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Moving between frustration and anger

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Frustration is widely recognised to be central to many cases of moral anger in a political context, yet little philosophical attention has been paid to it. In this paper, I offer a much-needed philosophical analysis of frustration, working primarily with the example of the recent South African student protests. By developing a deeper philosophical understanding of frustration and its connections to moral anger, I argue that the movement between the two has a couple of important aspects. First, the movement involves a transformation from simply responding to some opposition to viewing that opposition as wrongfully imposed by an agent; second, in the cases that are my focus, the movement is a response to a persistent opposition that is compounded by an erosion of trust, confidence and hope within a moral community, which ultimately changes the very nature of the opposition into a form of wrongdoing. These aspects allow us to assess the appropriateness of the movement, thereby developing a rich analysis of moral anger arising out of frustration in a political context.

Key messages
  1. Analysing how moral anger can arise out of frustration can be insightful for moral philosophy.

  2. The movement between frustration and moral anger highlights a breakdown in moral relationships.

  3. Moral anger arising from frustration involves a transformation in how an opposition is viewed.

  4. Mounting frustration can transform what was once a mere opposition into a wrongdoing.
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Keywords: frustration; moral anger; moral relationships; political anger; reactive attitude

Affiliations: University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Appeared or available online: December 18, 2019

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