The Red Mist
An influential critique of anger holds that anger comes at an important epistemic cost. In particular, feeling angry typically makes risk less visible to us. This is anger’s ‘red mist.’ These epistemic costs, critics suggest, arguably outweigh the epistemic benefits commonly ascribed to anger. This essay argues that the epistemic critique of anger is importantly misleading. This is not because it underestimates anger’s epistemic benefits, but rather because it overlooks the fact that anger’s red mist performs a crucial moral function. By concealing risk, the red mist helps protect the dignity and self-respect of those who live under severe and unchosen risk. This function is vitally important in non-ideal circumstances, where many are unjustly subjected to dignity-impairing risk. And it is irreplaceable, in that it cannot readily be performed by other political emotions, such as hope. Beyond providing a novel defence of anger, this argument has a broader upshot. Anger’s red mist reveals that ignorance is not always problematic in politics. Accordingly, it should not be treated—as has standardly been the case—as an unmitigated political evil. In the first instance, our efforts are better spent ascertaining when ignorance is a problem, and when, instead, it performs a felicitous function.
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