There is a strong Western tradition of opposing angry, hostile, or antagonistic reactions to wrongdoing. In the twentieth century, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. counseled responding to wrongdoing with forgiveness and love rather than anger, hate, or vindictiveness.
This ideal has taken on an exalted status in Western culture. Gandhi and King are widely regarded as moral saints. And yet sometimes antagonism seems deeply appropriate. Consider a very serious wrong: suppose, for instance, that a driver viciously and deliberately runs down my small child on the sidewalk. I ought to be resentful and angry at someone who does such a thing. It is troubling if I am not.
In light of such worries, some philosophers have defended antagonistic response to wrongdoing. In the dissertation I explore these defenses.
Chapter 1 identifies my target. These responses, which I call antagonistic, involve taking the wrongdoer's suffering to be intrinsically, non-instrumentally valuable. Chapters 2 and 3 explore attempts to establish that such response is required by important interpersonal attachments. In chapter 2, I discuss P. F. Strawson's well-known defense of antagonistic resentment in "Freedom and Resentment;" in chapter 3, I discuss attempts to tie antagonistic response to attachment to the victim of wrongdoing. In both cases, I argue, there are non-antagonistic alternative reactions--centrally, a form of moral sadness or disappointment--that can serve the same interpersonal roles. Antagonistic response is not, in fact, required by these important interpersonal attachments.
Chapters 4 and 5 discuss restorative and nullification defenses of response to wrongdoing. Restoration involves restoring some valuable state of affairs that has been destroyed by wrongdoing; annulment involves retroactively altering the wrongdoing itself in some way. Retroactively altering the past may sound farfetched; I argue that we can make sense of it, and appeal to such annulment to defend some specific ways of responding to wrongdoing. In the end, though, these responses do not involve the antagonism that is condemned by King and Gandhi. I conclude with a qualified endorsement of the King-Gandhi ideal: none of the attempts to justify antagonistic response that I consider succeed.