Troubling Others and Tormenting Ourselves: The Nature and Moral Significance of Jealousy
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Jealousy is an emotion that arises in diverse circumstances and is experienced in phenomenologically diverse ways. In part because of this diversity, evaluations of jealous subjects tend to be conflicting and ambiguous. Thus philosophers who are interested in the moral status of jealousy face a challenge: to explain how, despite the diversity of jealous subjects and experiences of jealousy, our moral evaluations of those subjects in light of those experiences might be unified. In this project, I confront and respond to this challenge, which I call <italic>the challenge of heterogeneity</italic>. In Part I, I refine and expand on existing descriptive accounts of jealousy, defending an account with three necessary but not sufficient conditions. On my view, if one is jealous: A. One desires that oneself stand in some relation to a specific, non-replicable good. B. One has in mind a (possibly imagined) rival and regards the rival’s having the good as logically or causally inconsistent with the satisfaction of this desire C. One has in mind some (possibly imagined) set of circumstances in which this desire would be satisfied. In discussing this view I emphasize the role that relationships play in giving rise to jealousy, since its connections to relationships make jealousy descriptively and normatively unique. In Part II, I develop an account of jealousy’s moral significance. To do so, I divide cases of jealousy into three types: those involving jealous desires relating to (1) caring relationships, (2) non-caring relationships, and (3) material goods or personal qualities. I argue that in all three types of cases, jealousy undermines the actual or potential moral value of the jealous subjects’ relationships, and that this undermining provides the paradigmatic moral reason to criticize jealous subjects. Thus I respond to the challenge of heterogeneity without simply portraying jealous subjects as selfish or insecure. After doing so, I consider multiple arguments for the claim that a person’s being jealous sometimes constitutes a moral reason to praise that person. I critique each of those arguments and conclude that we have good reasons to see jealous subjects as worthy of moral criticism but not moral praise.
- Philosophy