Envy is an emotion which is both complex and puzzling. It is one of the seven deadly sins. Eaten by envy a person becomes unreasonable, irrational, imprudent and vicious. Even philosophical literature which defends the rationality of emotions excludes envy as irredemable. A person’s emotion occurs when he does not possess the qualities that are admired in another person or his achievements are not as good as another or his does not possess things which the other person does.
A social comparison is there and the person does not come up to the standards of the other, thus his self esteem falls and he is envious of the other. The colour green is mostly associated with envy in most cultures and Shakespeare uses the phrase “green eyed monster” while describing Othello’s feelings. The Catholic Church considers it as a lethal sin because instead of concentrating on ones goodness and blessings one is caught in the web of envy and all ones energy is focussed on the other person’s status and means and methods in planning out his downfall.
When man is envious he is full of hatred for the other person. Such people are often internally weak, they are unduly proud and at the same time there is self loathing for indulging in these things. Envy does not need any class. It is found among siblings, co workers, the elite and the proud, the beggar and the king, people and nations, in academics, in sports, in all fields. The person’s aim is always to destroy the other since the envied person makes him feel inferior in all spheres that he competes with him.
In the Bible we find that Jesus had to be crucified because of envy. The chief priests were envious of him as the people were following him and not listening to them. According to Aristotle “ Envy is pain at the good fortune of others. ” (Aristotle, Rhetoric, Bk II, Chapter 10) We view the well being of another with distress because we tend to compare our well being not in its own intrinic value but how it compares with others. Therefore “envy aims at least in terms of one’s wishes, at destroying others’ good fortune. (Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals 6:459)
When dealing with society Rawls think s that envy could become a threat if it comes to undermine the self-respect of those who are less well off. It might do this, he thinks, if the differences between the haves and the have-nots are so great that, under existing social conditions, the differences cannot help but cause loss of self-esteem. “For those suffering this hurt,” he continues, “envious feelings are not irrational; the satisfaction of their rancor would make them better off. ” (534) Thus in the light of the above discussion we come to the conclusion that envy involves thinking that the rival has something good that the subject lacks.