The Things We Envy: Fitting Envy and Human Goodness

In Chris Howard & R. A. Rowland (eds.), Fittingness. OUP (2023)
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I argue that fitting envy plays a special role in safeguarding our happiness and flourishing. After presenting my theory of envy and its fittingness conditions, I contrast Kant’s view that envy is always unfitting with D’Arms and Jacobson’s defense of fitting envy as an evolutionarily-shaped response to a deep and wide human concern, that is, relative positioning. However, D’Arms and Jacobson don’t go far enough. First, I expand on their analysis of positional goodness, distinguishing between an epistemic claim, according to which we use implicit or explicit comparison to know what position we occupy in a continuum of goodness, and thus to form judgments of goodness, and a metaphysical one, according to which much human goodness depends on implicit or explicit rankings and positionality. Second, I argue that fitting envy is not only intrinsically valuable qua fitting response to authentic goodness, but can be epistemically, morally and prudentially valuable.

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Sara Protasi
University of Puget Sound


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