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Research paper topic: Anger: Sin Or Virtue - 1065 words
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Anger: Sin Or Virtue? Anger is a common emotion felt by everyone, often many times a day. Whether it is road rage experienced when driving during rush hour traffic or the feeling of outrage associated with learning of social injustices half way across the world, anger is a part of our daily practice. It is an emotion that has been categorized, along with other emotions and acts, into the seven deadly sins of man. Why is this considered a sin? Why do we feel this anger? Can getting angry ever have a positive effect on our lives or is it always negative? What step should be taken against certain angers? In this paper I hope to discuss the nature of anger. We will look closer at anger as a vice and as a possible virtue.
I would like to offer my opinion of how to use anger and the control of anger to optimize happiness in our lives. Hopefully, this will help us learn more about the deadly sin of anger. In ethics we study the seven deadly sins to help us identify what is important in trying to achieve the good life. When talking about sin we are inclined to refer to vice. A vice is a character trait that detracts one from living the good life. A person's idea of vice is then dependent on their definition of the good life.
Let us not burden ourselves with varied definitions at this point. For the sake of this paper let us identify the good life as a maximization of true pleasure and a minimization of true pain for an individual and those around him or her. In contrast to vice we have virtue. Virtue is some character trait that leads one to living the good life. It is important to distinguish between the two in our study of anger. Anger is very often thought of as a vice. Christian philosophies, in particular, view anger in this manner.
It is without a doubt that anger can bring pain to oneself and to others. At times anger can seem irrational and violent. Seneca views this vice as the most chaotic: " .. the other emotions have in them some element of peace and calm, while this one (anger) is wholly violent and has its being in an onrush of resentment, raging with a most inhuman lust for weapons, blood, and punishment, giving no thought to itself if only it can hurt another, hurling itself upon the very point of the dagger, and eager for revenge though it may drag down the avenger along with it. (Seneca, 107)" Some people have a different idea of its nature.
The philosophies of Aristotle insist that anger can be just. Is it ok to be to be upset at the murder of a loved one? Seneca says no. Even in the most extreme of circumstances one must maintain control over their anger. No action should be taken against the perpetrator. Aristotle believes that it is necessary.
The vice lies in the excess and deficiency of anger. As applied to his "doctrine of the mean state" this would imply that anger is only sinful when there is too much or too little. If some anger is necessary then it might be the case that Aristotle could view certain angers as virtuous. Let us examine a particular case in which I was angered and decide how this was or was not sinful. I was working as a host at a restaurant when I was still in high school. I learned of a scheme that the waiters would run to steal money from the restaurant without the owner finding out.
When I discovered this I was outraged. It was the injustice that angered me. I reacted nonviolently when I informed the owner. Actions were taken to see that those waiters were fired. If we take this and break it down into four parts we might be better able to study this situation. First of all, a supposed injustice occurred.
Secondly, I react by getting angered at the idea of the wrongfulness that had taken place (apparent injustice is the most common cause of anger). Thirdly, I calmly take action against to seek that which I think is right. And finally, punishment was carried out. Is angered justified in any or all of these circumstances. Seneca would say that regardless of the fact that I was seeking a higher moral good, I cause myself pain at the onset of anger.
A better, ideal reaction would be one of the same outcomes minus the pain of anger. I believe that Aristotle would focus on parts one, two, and four. At this point we would have to decide how to respond. Taken into account all that has happened, I would have to believe that Aristotle would mostly agree that this act was not sinful. A lack of anger would cause a state of deficiency while too much anger would cause a state of excess. If the characteristic, anger in this situation, is not a vice, is it a virtue? Aristotle believes in the existence of justified anger in specific instances.
He also believes that justice is a type of virtue. In other words, a just act is one of virtue. Aristotle says in order for an act to be just the agent performing the act must: " .. know what he is doing, secondly that he should deliberately choose to do it and to do it for its own sake, and thirdly that he should do it as an instance of a settled and immutable state. (Aristotle, 42)" So if in action I were to meet all these requirements not only would the feeling of anger not be sinful, but it could be credited with yielding virtue.
However, it is rather unlikely that all conditions were met. So in my particular case this did not yield an act of virtue. Where does the sin of anger lie? How can we live a life with less anger? The ideal way to combat against anger for Seneca is to avoid getting angry. However, this is somewhat impractical. If anger does occur one must then try the method of suppression.
Many modern day psychologists say that this may cause a build up of rage. Dolf Zillmann, psychologist and professor at the University of Alabama, agrees with this idea. Through many lengthy experiments he has conclu ...
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