Invideo et Amo: on Envying the Beloved
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Can we love and envy the same person at the same time? There is an overwhelming, cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary, consensus that love and envy are deeply incompatible. In this paper, I challenge this consensus, and focus in particular on the normative thesis that true love should be void of envy proper. I first propose an indirect argument. Because love and envy thrive in the same psychological conditions, it is not unlikely to feel envy toward the beloved. If we want ideals that do not go against our psychological propensities, then we should not aim for a love that is wholly void of envy. I then propose a direct argument, in defense of two positive ideals. I argue that a certain kind of envy—emulative envy—can be beneficial to the loving relationship; in turn, a certain kind of love—wise love— which accepts the presence of envy, can be beneficial to our lives. Thus, that love and envy are so linked in our psychology is not something that we should merely tolerate, but wholeheartedly embrace.
KeywordsEnvy Love Relationship Emulative envy Admiration Aristotle Rousseau
This paper has long been in the making and has benefited from the feedback of many, many people, among which: Aaron Ben-ze’ev, Justin Clardy, Pamela Corcoran, Stephen Darwall, Jamie Dow, Tamar Szabó Gendler, June Gruber, Verity Harte, Jasper Heaton, Hud Hudson, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, Michael Lacewing, Gerald Lang, Shen-yi Liao, Dominic McIver Lopes, Heather Logue, Nicholas Martin, Aaron Meskin, Donnchadh O'Conaill, Regina Rini, Aida Roige Mas, Matthew Smith, Zoltán Gendler Szabó, Neal Tognazzini, Pekka Väyrynen, Matthew Walker, Dennis Whitcomb, Justin Weinberg, many anonymous reviewers, and audience members at University of Leeds and EPSSE Annual Conference at University of Edinburgh. I am thankful to all of you, and I apologize if I forgot anyone.
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