On Anger, Book I, XII

“What, then,” asks our adversary, “is a good man not to be angry if he sees his father murdered or his mother outraged?”

No, he will not be angry, but will avenge them, or protect them.

Why do you fear that filial piety will not prove a sufficient spur to him even without anger?

You may as well say⁠—“What then?

When a good man sees his father or his son being cut down, I suppose he will not weep or faint,” as we see women do whenever any trifling rumour of danger reaches them.

The good man will do his duty without disturbance or fear, and he will perform the duty of a good man, so as to do nothing unworthy of a man.

My father will be murdered: then I will defend him: he has been slain, then I will avenge him, not because I am grieved, but because it is my duty.

“Good men are made angry by injuries done to their friends.”

When you say this, Theophrastus, you seek to throw discredit upon more manly maxims; you leave the judge and appeal to the mob: because everyone is angry when such things befall his own friends, you suppose that men will decide that it is their duty to do what they do: for as a rule every man considers a passion which he recognises to be a righteous one.

But he does the same thing if the hot water is not ready for his drink, if a glass be broken, or his shoe splashed with mud. It is not filial piety, but weakness of mind that produces this anger, as children weep when they lose their parents, just as they do when they lose their toys.

To feel anger on behalf of one’s friends does not show a loving, but a weak mind: it is admirable and worthy conduct to stand forth as the defender of one’s parents, children, friends, and countrymen, at the call of duty itself, acting of one’s own free will, forming a deliberate judgment, and looking forward to the future, not in an impulsive, frenzied fashion.

No passion is more eager for revenge than anger, and for that very reason it is unapt to obtain it: being over hasty and frantic, like almost all desires, it hinders itself in the attainment of its own object, and therefore has never been useful either in peace or war: for it makes peace like war, and when in arms forgets that Mars belongs to neither side, and falls into the power of the enemy, because it is not in its own.

In the next place, vices ought not to be received into common use because on some occasions they have effected somewhat: for so also fevers are good for certain kinds of ill-health, but nevertheless it is better to be altogether free from them: it is a hateful mode of cure to owe one’s health to disease.

Similarly, although anger, like poison, or falling headlong, or being shipwrecked, may have unexpectedly done good, yet it ought not on that account to be classed as wholesome, for poisons have often proved good for the health.