North Park University Crip Camp Film Review


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BACKGROUNDThe film, Crip Camp, is centrally concerned with protagonists who meet during the 70s at a recreational camp for young people with disabilities. There is a great deal of laughter, joy, and liberation contained in the film, but it also gives us a chance to learn a lot about anger as a virtue (to use Aristotle’s term) and as a catalyst for change.We will return to this film to illustrate and unpack several of our ethical frameworks, but I want you to simply pay close attention to its protagonists and the times when anger plays an important role in their actions and values. We will NOT be viewing its central figures as victims trapped inside a stereotypical narrative but as fully realized individuals. Next week, we will go more deeply into the field of Disability Studies and how this scholarship has impacted the discipline of Ethics.MATERIALSRead this 1-page passage from Aristotle on anger: Aristotle on Anger.Watch the Netflix film, Crip Camp, here: Note: “Crip” is a reclaimed slur. It is fine to use in the context of the film but should not be used without context in everyday discussion. We will talk about this more next week.PROMPTJudith Heumann with Larry Allison, James LeBrecht, Denise Sherer Jacobson, and Stephen Hofmann make up the central protagonists portrayed in the film, Crip Camp. Please focus on one of these individuals and be as specific as possible in trying to describe how they ‘practice’ the ethical virtue of being angry in the right (middle) way in Aristotle’s sense. Note how they tailor their responses to specific encounters and relationships, whether they seem to have gained wisdom and ease with a specific virtue, and how for all their efforts they may not be able to immediately or ever get the results they desire. Do you believe that that Aristotle is correct and there is a ‘middle way’ to be angry?

Aristotle on Anger
Tip: This text is already in translation; if the old-fashioned English is difficult and you have another first
language, you should look it up. For example, here is a link to our reading in Polish, Etyka nikomachejska
– Wikipedia, wolna encyklopedia.
In this excerpt, Aristotle explains that a virtuous person should be angry in some circumstances (for
example, at injustice or when someone is trying to walk over them), but the key is to be angry “in the
right way, at the right time, and with the right persons.”
From Book IV, Chapter 5 of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics:
Good temper is a mean [middle ground] with respect to anger; the middle state being unnamed, and the
extremes almost without a name as well, we place good temper in the middle position, though it inclines
towards the deficiency, which is without a name. The excess might be called a sort of ‘bad
temperedness’. For the passion is anger, while its causes are many and diverse.
The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and, further, as he ought, when he
ought, and as long as he ought, is praised. This will be the good-tempered man, then, since good temper
is praised. For the good-tempered man tends to be unperturbed and not to be led by passion, but to be
angry in the manner, at the things, and for the length of time, that the rule dictates; but he is thought to
err rather in the direction of deficiency; for the good-tempered man is not revengeful, but rather tends
to make allowances.
The deficiency, whether it is a sort of ‘indifference’ or whatever it is, is blamed. For those who are not
angry at the things they should be angry at are thought to be fools, and so are those who are not angry
in the right way, at the right time, or with the right persons; for such a man is thought not to feel things
nor to be pained by them, and, since he does not get angry, he is thought unlikely to defend himself; and
to endure being insulted and put up with insult to one’s friends is slavish.
The excess can be manifested in all the points that have been named (for one can be angry with the
wrong persons, at the wrong things, more than is right, too quickly, or too long); yet all are not found in
the same person. Indeed they could not; for evil destroys even itself, and if it is complete becomes
unbearable. Now hot-tempered people get angry quickly and with the wrong persons and at the wrong
things and more than is right, but their anger ceases quickly-which is the best point about them. This
happens to them because they do not restrain their anger but retaliate openly owing to their quickness
of temper, and then their anger ceases. By reason of excess some people are quick-tempered and ready
to be angry with everything and on every occasion; whence their name. Sulky people are hard to
appease, and retain their anger long; for they repress their passion. But it ceases when they retaliate; for
revenge relieves them of their anger, producing in them pleasure instead of pain. If this does not happen
they retain their burden; for owing to its not being obvious no one even reasons with them, and to
digest one’s anger in oneself takes time. Such people are most troublesome to themselves and to their
dearest friends. We call bad-tempered those who are angry at the wrong things, more than is right, and
longer, and cannot be appeased until they inflict vengeance or punishment.
To good temper, we oppose the excess rather than the defect; for not only is it commoner since revenge
is the more human), but bad-tempered people are worse to live with.
What we have said in our earlier treatment of the subject is plain also from what we are now saying; viz.
that it is not easy to define how, with whom, at what, and how long one should be angry, and at what
point right action ceases and wrong begins. For the man who strays a little from the path, either towards
the more or towards the less, is not blamed; since sometimes we praise those who exhibit the
deficiency, and call them good-tempered, and sometimes we call angry people manly, as being capable
of ruling. How far, therefore, and how a man must stray before he becomes blameworthy, it is not easy
to state in words; for the decision depends on the particular facts and on perception. But so much at
least is plain, that the middle state is praiseworthy- that in virtue of which we are angry with the right
people, at the right things, in the right way, and so on, while the excesses and defects are blameworthyslightly so if they are present in a low degree, more if in a higher degree, and very much if in a high
degree. Evidently, then, we must cling to the middle state.- Enough of the states relative to anger.

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