Tuesday, November 03, 2015

From Envy to Admiration

From Timothy Perrine and Kevin Timpe's essay "Envy and Its Discontents" in Virtues and Their Vices (Oxford University Press, 2014):
If the envier is envious of the public standing or good name of another, then the envier may attempt to reduce that good name. For example, he may publicly detract from the importance or impressiveness of the other's accomplishments (the vice of detraction or slander). Alternatively, the envier may not publicy detract another, but secretly go about spreading rumors regarding the other or his accomplishments (the vice of tale bearing or gossip). Regarding how the envier attempts to reduce the good name of the another, there are two chief ways. First, the envier can diminish the actual importance or impressiveness of the other's accomplishments that are the objectsof comparison fore the envier ('Sure, if headquarters gave me those many resources, I could have easily secured that contract!); second, the envier can draw attention to other (real or imaginary) faults of the envied ('Anyone who spend that much time at the office could accomplish that, but I prefer to not neglect my children's well-being'). The ultimate goal of these actions is to lessen the good name of the other, so that the envious person's comparative position is increased. The envier may attempt to reduce that good name.The ultimate goal of these actions is to lessen the good name of the other, so that the envious person's comparative position is increased.
After all, as one author puts it, "we [humans] are comparison machines."  However,
Charity and humility are correcting virtues, not because they work around envy, but because they remove the source and results of envy. ...Envy is opposed to charity, which is the virtue to love another and tend towards that which is good for her. Whereas charity requires wishing others well, expressing joy when good things happen to them, loving them, and loving one's self, envy leads to wishing ill of others, expressing sorrow over their good, and ultimately hating them. The development of charity will naturally drive out envy, since one cannot both rejoice and sorrow over another's particular good. Charity will naturally manifest itself in ways that discourage envy. Earlier we approvingly quoted Van Hooft as saying that 'a further self-referring attitude lying at a deeper level within envy is a form of dissatisfaction with oneself. When one feels envy, one is dissatisfied with one's own possessions and situation.' Such dissatisfaction may arise from a lack of self-love, which shows that envy may partially be the result of a lack of love for one's own person. This is why charity is a corrective virtue to envy, for charity requires self-love. Beyond this, charity also helps one see that one's own good and the good of the other are not necessarily competitive or exclusive. As evidenced by some of the work by social-psychologists, when we see our own good as connected with the good of others, we are less likely to suffer the vice of envy. Particularly if one takes a view such as Aquinas' in which all creatures' ultimate good is found in union with God, charity will unify rather than divide individuals. Even Bertrand Russell saw that envy could be overcome by seeing the good of the other as cooperative rather than competitive: 'merely to realize the causes of one's own envious feelings is to take a long step towards curing them. The habit of thinking in terms of comparison is a fatal one.' Replacing such comparisons with admiration both diminishes envy and increases happiness.
So well put I'm envious!