In Francis Bacon's essay "Of Anger," what is the meaning of the paragraph beginning "For raising and appeasing anger"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In the 1601 edition of Francis Bacon’s Essays, the essay “Of Anger” concludes with the following paragraph:

For raising and appeasing anger in another; it is done chiefly by choosing of times, when men are frowardest and worst disposed, to incense them. Again, by gathering (as was touched before) all that you can find out, to aggravate the contempt. And the two remedies are by the contraries. The former to take good times, when first to relate to a man an angry business; for the first impression is much; and the other is, to sever, as much as may be, the construction of the injury from the point of contempt; imputing it to misunderstanding, fear, passion, or what you will.

This paragraph might be paraphrased as follows:

Let me tell you how you can either make other people angry or how you can remove their anger. If you want to make them angry, you should choose a time when they are most obstinate or inflexible and when they are in the worst possible mood or temper. As I mentioned earlier, you can also try to discover any fact that might make them even fuller of contempt than they were already. Likewise, if you want to try to dampen someone’s anger, there are two methods.  One method is to choose a pleasant or happy time to talk to that person about anything that might make (or has made) the person angry. After all, people often follow their first impressions; if you approach them when they are in good moods, they are more likely to be agreeable and to put aside their anger. Another method for diminishing someone’s anger is to emphasize that if you did anything to make that other person angry, you didn’t do so because you felt contempt or disrespect for that person. Instead, you should claim that you made the person angry only because you made a mistake, or because you were afraid, or because you couldn’t control your emotions, or for any other plausible reason.  Just don’t allow the person that you lacked respect or felt contempt or disdain.

The second section of Bacon’s paragraph is especially intriguing.  Just as many people today are highly offended if they think they have been disrespected (or “dissed”), so Bacon assumes the same thing about people living during his own time. He assumes that people of his day are motivated partly by pride and that they cannot stand to have their pride challenged. They may be willing to let go of their anger if they are presented with just about any other excuse to explain why someone else made them angry. However, if they feel that they have been disrespected, they will find it very difficult to let go of their anger.

Since violence and even death often results today from people who feel that they have been “dissed,” Bacon’s comments here still seem particularly relevant.

 

 

 

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