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An escape from anger and other Buddhist contributions to the philosophy of emotions




Murray, Adam, author
MacKenzie, Matthew, advisor
McLeod, Alexus, committee member
Snodgrass, Jeffrey, committee member

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This paper begins with an examination of several theories of emotion in general—a ‘mixed theory’, an ‘attitudinal theory’, and a Buddhist ‘componential theory.’ I argue that the Buddhist theory has a theoretical advantage over these alternatives insofar as it avoids two ‘thin’ characterizations of emotions that exclude either affective or conative states from the concept. The Buddhist theory of emotions, I claim, has another advantage insofar as it brings practicality to the forefront, connecting our theorizing about emotions with what is most important—developing good character and bringing about the welfare of beings. Chapter 2 proceeds to an in- depth analysis of the emotion of anger in particular, examining several philosophically important accounts—those of Aristotle, Seneca, and the Buddha. I raise problems of definition, highlight some typical and contentious features of anger, and draw from several classical sources to reconstruct a Buddhist account of anger. In the final chapter, I argue that typical anger is not necessary for moral life, addressing myself to arguments from Zac Cogley and Emily McRae. I continue by demonstrating that Buddhism has resources that allow us to both eliminate or largely attenuate anger, and to approach the problems we face without anger; finally, I sketch out exactly how this can be accomplished.


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