Chapter 10 – Envy

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To take Envy next: we can see on what grounds, against what persons, and in what states of mind we feel it. Envy is pain at the sight of such good fortune as consists of the good things already mentioned; we feel it towards our equals; not with the idea of getting something for ourselves, but because the other people have it.

  • We shall feel it if we have, or think we have, equals; and by “equals” I mean equals in birth, relationship, age, disposition, distinction, or wealth.
  • We feel envy also if we fall but a little short of having everything; which is why people in high place and prosperity feel it — they think every one else is taking what belongs to themselves. Also if we are exceptionally distinguished for some particular thing, and especially if that thing is wisdom or good fortune.
  • Ambitious men are more envious than those who are not. So also those who profess wisdom; they are ambitious — to be thought wise.
  • Indeed, generally, those who aim at a reputation for anything are envious on this particular point.
  • And small-minded men are envious, for everything seems great to them.

 The good things which excite envy have already been mentioned.  The deeds or possessions which arouse the love of reputation and honour and the desire for fame, and the various gifts of fortune, are almost all subject to envy; and particularly if we desire the thing ourselves, or think we are entitled to it, or if having it puts us a little above others, or not having it a little below them.

It is clear also what kind of people we envy; that was included in what has been said already: we envy those who are near us in time, place, age, or reputation. Hence the line:

Ay, kin can even be jealous of their kin.

Also our fellow-competitors, who are indeed the people just mentioned — we do not compete with men who lived a hundred centuries ago, or those not yet born, or the dead, or those who dwell near the Pillars of Hercules, or those whom, in our opinion or that of others, we take to be far below us or far above us.

So too we compete with those who follow the same ends as ourselves: we compete with our rivals in sport or in love, and generally with those who are after the same things; and it is therefore these whom we are bound to envy beyond all others. Hence the saying:

Potter against potter.

We also envy those whose possession of or success in a thing is a reproach to us: these are our neighbours and equals; for it is clear that it is our own fault we have missed the good thing in question; this annoys us, and excites envy in us.

We also envy those who have what we ought to have, or have got what we did have once. Hence old men envy younger men, and those who have spent much envy those who have spent little on the same thing. And men who have not got a thing, or not got it yet, envy those who have got it quickly.

We can also see what things and what persons give pleasure to envious people, and in what states of mind they feel it: the states of mind in which they feel pain are those under which they will feel pleasure in the contrary things.

If therefore we ourselves with whom the decision rests are put into an envious state of mind, and those for whom our pity, or the award of something desirable, is claimed are such as have been described, it is obvious that they will win no pity from us.

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Published on June 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Enjoyed chapter 10 very much. Keep it up the good work.


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