An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Value of Envy

Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-20 (2021)
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Abstract

The public and scholars alike largely consider envy to be reprehensible. This judgment of the value of envy commonly results either from a limited understanding of the nature of envy or from a limited understanding of how to determine the value of phenomena. Overcoming this state requires an interdisciplinary collaboration of psychologists and philosophers. That is, broad empirical evidence regarding the nature of envy generated in psychological studies must inform judgments about the value of envy according to sophisticated philosophical standards. We conducted such a collaboration. Empirical research indicates that envy is constituted by multiple components which in turn predict diverse outcomes that may be functional for the self and society. Accordingly, the value of envy is similarly nuanced. Sometimes, envy may have instrumental value in promoting prudentially and morally good outcomes. Sometimes, envy may be non-instrumentally prudentially and morally good. Sometimes, envy may be bad. This nuanced perspective on the value of envy has implications for recommendations on how to deal with envy and paves the way toward future empirical and theoretical investigations on the nature and the value of envy.

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Sara Protasi
University of Puget Sound

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