Varieties of Envy

Philosophical Psychology 29 (4):535-549 (2016)
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In this paper I present a novel taxonomy of envy, according to which there are four kinds of envy: emulative, inert, aggressive and spiteful envy. An inquiry into the varieties of envy is valuable not only to understand it as a psychological phenomenon, but also to shed light on the nature of its alleged viciousness. The first section introduces the intuition that there is more than one kind of envy, together with the anecdotal and linguistic evidence that supports it. The second section proposes and explains in detail a definition of envy tout court. The third section presents a recurring distinction between behavioral tendencies of envy, which has been explained in two distinct ways, one mostly proposed by psychologists, the other discernible in the philosophical tradition. The fourth section argues that these models of explanation track two variables, whose interplay is responsible for the existence of the four envies. The fifth section illustrates four paradigmatic cases, and provides a detailed analysis of the phenomenology, motivational structure, and typical behavioral outputs of each. The paper ends with a brief discussion of the implications of the taxonomy for moral education.
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