Jon Elster: Honorary doctor 2017
Jon Elster is a new honorary doctor at University of Oslo and will hold the open lecture On Anger in history.
Jon Elster. Photo: Eileen Barroso
Historians often refer to the emotions of the actors, but rarely in a systematic way. Psychologists, who do study emotions systematically, almost never refer to history for inspiration or applications.
This talk studies historical episodes in which anger and its close cognates had a decisive influence on behavior, and uses this material to make novel conceptual distinctions. Anecdotally and probably apocryphally, the idea goes back to Herodotus’s claim that Xerxes flogged the waters of the Hellespont after they destroyed a bridge he had built across it. More important, anger has had a central role in revolutions as well as in processes of transitional justice.
In addition to the distinction between anger and indignation first made by Descartes and recently confirmed by laboratory studies, the historical material suggests a distinction between two types of anger: the emotion caused by the belief that another person is indifferent to one’s welfare, and the emotion caused by the belief that another person is intentionally trying to reduce it.
Jon Elster (born February 22, 1940, Oslo) is a Norwegian social and political theorist who has authored works in the philosophy of social science and rational choice theory. He is also a notable proponent of analytical Marxism, and a critic of neoclassical economics and public choice theory, largely on behavioral and psychological grounds. In 2016, he was awarded the 22nd Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for his contributions to Political Science.