Monday, May 30, 2016

I loves me some rage

So, lately, I've been doing a lot of work on rage. It initially formed the core of one of my dissertation chapters, but now it's bloated to incorporate a few chapters. My current chapter** uses rage as a centerpiece. Here's a problem: I haven't found many good discussions of rage. I'm using a Straussian perspective, so of course Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom (who did the relevant translation of The Republic, where the thymos constitutes one of the three parts of the souls) are major influences, but these discussions haven't quite handled all my lingering questions. That's why my writing goes so slow: I think I understand a concept, then I start writing about it, and my detail-oriented constantly encounters subtleties of formulation that I never suspected before. Several other books that I looked which mention thymos give unsatisfactory definitions of it.

Anyway, thus it was with gratitude that I then encountered Angela Hobbes's Plato and the Hero. Here, in about a paragraph, is the single best description of thymos that I have yet see:

  • “I wish to claim that the essence of human thumos is the need to believe that one counts for something, and that central to this need will be a tendency to form an ideal image of oneself in accordance with one’s conception of the fine and noble.” Failure to live up to this results in anger, self-disgust, or shame. “This ideal of oneself also needs to be confirmed by social recognition: others must treat one in accordance with one’s self-image,” and obtaining this recognition not only requires self-assertion and maybe aggression, but “any offense committed to one’s self-image by others will prompt anger and a desire to retaliate” (30). Yet thumos is no mere driving force. It responds to reason and social expectations. It’s susceptible to a proper education. 

Saruman will have a warped thumos (i.e., his anger) that gets out of hand; otherwise, the above is a perfect description of Boromir, the most recognizably heroic (non-Christian) character in the book. Anyway, I feel like baking Dr. Hobbes a cake or something.

**Get this title, "Harken Not to Wild Beats: A Look at Rhetoric and Rage in Saruman and Thrasymachus." Ain't that fantastic? Makes you want to start reading immediately, don't it?

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