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Is there a difference between jealousy and envy ? If there is, then assuming both are morally undesirable (which you may challenge), is one morally worse than the other. If so, which and why (arguments on both sides)?

From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article linked by DeeDuu:

Ordinary language tends to conflate envy and jealousy. The philosophical consensus is that these are distinct emotions... Jealousy involves three parties, the subject, the rival, and the beloved; and the jealous person’s real locus of concern is the beloved, a person (or being) whose affection he is losing or fears losing. The locus of concern in jealousy is not the rival. Whereas envy is a two party relation, with a third relatum that is a good (albeit a good that could be a particular person’s affections); and the envious person’s locus of concern is the rival.

On this way of distinguishing envy from jealousy there is a difference between them even when the good that the rival has is the affection of another person. Roughly, for the jealous person the rival is fungible and the beloved is not fungible. So he would be equally bothered if the beloved were consorting with someone else, and would not be bothered if the rival were. Whereas in envy it is the other way around. Because envy is centrally focused on competition with the rival, the subject might well be equally bothered if the rival were consorting with a different (appealing) person, but would not be bothered if the ‘good’ had gone to someone else (with whom the subject was not in competition).

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    There's a short section on the distinction in the SEP, see plato.stanford.edu/entries/envy/#1.2. – user26652 Nov 26 '17 at 17:45
  • @Conifold. The question has been edited in a way that makes no sense. 'If there is' - what ? The original question, to which this relates, was whether there is a distinction between envy and jealousy. And why 'according to modern philosophers' ? The invitation was meant to invite people to think for themselves, not go to reference books or sites. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 27 '17 at 9:02
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    You can rollback the edit. "Thinking for themselves", however, would make the question primarily opinion-based, which is off-topic on this site (there are still 3 votes to close it for that reason, at 5 it will be put on hold). Questions here are supposed to be "objectively" answerable rather then solicit opinions, you can replace "according to modern philosophers" with something else though. – Conifold Nov 27 '17 at 19:41
  • &Conifold . Thank you for orienting me to the requirements and standards of the site. Would 'Does contemporary philosophy of mind endorse a disitinction between envy and jealousy ?' be acceptable ? I don't want to make a change and lose more marks when my only intention is to act as a responsible member of the site. I am sure you will understand my concern. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 27 '17 at 21:20
  • Generally, I would phrase it less definitively, "contemporary philosophy of mind" is not a unified field. But for this question the linked SEP article explicitly answers yes, and gives references. I thought you were interested in moral implications of the distinction, but feel free to emphasize what you like as long as you make clear that it asks for professional rather than personal takes. – Conifold Nov 27 '17 at 21:40
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For the differences, please look at this:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/joy-and-pain/201401/what-is-the-difference-between-envy-and-jealousy

From the above link I understand...

Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another.

Jealousy occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person.

If so, in my opinion 'jealousy' seems worse than 'envy' because the person can't relinquish the thing once he had possessed/tasted. In the case of 'envy', the person hasn't tasted it yet.

It is certainly a bad habit to possess something when another person has more rights on it.

The following statements show that 'envy' can only be a 'subset' of 'jealousy'.

This means that when you are feeling jealous, you are often feeling envious as well.

And yet envy and jealousy are not the same emotions. Envy, as unpleasant as it can be, usually doesn’t contain a sense of betrayal and resultant outrage, for example.

  • Thanks for this. I agree with the account of envy but can't I be jealous of X if X possesses a good, Y, which I think X does not deserve to have but I do ? In terms of an example : I am jealous of X because X has gained a promotion to which I think I had a better claim. Just a suggestion. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 25 '17 at 19:27
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    A further thought. Someone once said to me, 'Envy is of things, jealously is of people'. While I don't think this is quite right, since one can be envious of people, there is something in it. I envy your new car (thing) since I would like to have one; I may not in the least resent - be jealous of - your having it. By contrast I am jealous of you (person) because you have secured a promotion to which I think I was entitled. You have set me thinking, thank you. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 25 '17 at 20:44
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[Subsequent to DeeDuu's link to the relevant SEP entry, I've inserted excerpts from that which more concisely/rigorously convey some points I was 'grasping' at. All emphasis in these excerpts is mine.]

SonOfThought covered the basic distinction that I prefer to maintain, not out of pedantry but to encourage distinction itself. I've never known envy to be commonly used in conversation, whereas it seems increasingly common for people to say "oh, I'm so jealous" when they're merely coveting something they don't have.

From the SEP:

While it is linguistically acceptable to say that one is jealous upon hearing about another’s vacation, say, it has been plausibly argued that one is feeling envy, if either, in such a case.

I'll start from a more vague concept of entitled, "grasping" behavior:

  • jealousy is grasping tightly what one already 'has';

  • envy is grasping for what one doesn't have but supposedly should have;

  • for extra contrast we add a third, avarice/acquisitiveness, which is sheer greed: grasping for more, and more, and more (of whatever), no rationalization required, compulsive.

both envy and jealousy are three-place relations; but this superficial similarity conceals an important difference. Jealousy involves three parties, the subject, the rival, and the beloved; and the jealous person’s real locus of concern is the beloved, a person (or being) whose affection he is losing or fears losing. The locus of concern in jealousy is not the rival. Whereas envy is a two party relation, with a third relatum that is a good (albeit a good that could be a particular person’s affections); and the envious person’s locus of concern is the rival. . . . Roughly, for the jealous person the rival is fungible and the beloved is not fungible. So he would be equally bothered if the beloved were consorting with someone else, and would not be bothered if the rival were.

  • Envy regards possessions and advantages as inappropriately distributed - e.g. "That guy doesn't deserve his good fortune! I would do so much more with it!" This overlaps with avarice because "I should have that", but diverges in that envy presupposes a strong resentment of the "have-not" situation.

(The SEP sets a distinction between resentment and envy, and even further separates envy into 'invidious' and 'benign' varieties; I will emend the conflation by saying that the invidious sort was the only one I had in mind to begin with, and place the other distinction after the following paragraph.)

In its role as a 'deadly sin', envy is essentially thoughtcrime; though it is possible for actions like thievery to be informed by one's envy, it's the attitude itself that is sinful: the insistence (whether or not you ever voice it) that you deserve those things, and they don't deserve them. It is much easier to frown upon The Envious during periods of extreme and unquestioned class disparity - societies in which it is a 'sin' to be dissatisfied with your 'lot in life'. In fact, I might go so far as to suppose that envy has fallen out of common usage and reflection precisely because at least half of that ambition ("I deserve better") is more widespread in societies that promote equality as an ideal - i.e. it is less of an 'attitude problem' than ever.

Even those who deny that “benign envy” is a kind of envy will grant the existence of cases in which people want to have skills or other traits that are possessed by another person, and are pained by their lack, but in which they have no desire at all for the other person to lose those traits. Call such a state “emulative desire.”

  • Jealousy is zealous possessiveness; the most suitable overlap with envy while keeping them distinct is arguably the most destructive manifestation: "If I can't have _____, then nobody can." The overlap with avarice is a hoarding mentality. The unique side of jealousy is that it is an attitude to which many divine entities (not just the scriptural Judeo-Christian god) are entitled!

Yes, of course it is possible to flog either of these into a shape that might as well be the other - as with any 'deadly sin' or 'negative emotion', really.

With the above in mind, I agree with SOT that jealousy is worse in character, but mostly just because I associate it with harmful action, much moreso than I associate envy. However (and I can only go by anecdotes here), I think that 'bottling up' either one of them can proverbially 'eat you up inside', but that it may be easier to wean oneself off [unexpressed] jealousy than [unexpressed] envy, rather because of that difference.

Unsurprisingly, someone else has put it better. From Wikipedia:

Gerrod Parrott draws attention to the distinct thoughts and feelings that occur in jealousy and envy.

The common experience of jealousy for many people may involve:

   Fear of loss
   Suspicion of or anger about a perceived betrayal
   Low self-esteem and sadness over perceived loss
   Uncertainty and loneliness
   Fear of losing an important person to another
   Distrust

The experience of envy involves:

   Feelings of inferiority
   Longing
   Resentment of circumstances
   Ill will towards envied person often accompanied by guilt about these feelings
   Motivation to improve
   Desire to possess the attractive rival's qualities
   Disapproval of feelings

I see far more toxic possibilities related to jealousy (fear, anger, suspicion) than to envy (longing, desire, ill will "often accompanied by guilt").

  • My linguistic intuitions are different from yours. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 26 '17 at 19:06
  • However, I appreciate your answer. It reveals uses of 'envy' and 'jealousy' which I'm sure occur and of which I had not been aware. I appreciate. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 26 '17 at 19:52
  • I admit that I only even bother making the distinctions in my mind because of having encountered somewhat 'bygone' religious traditions, and I have not yet tracked down the sources from which I recall these usages. – N. Presley Nov 26 '17 at 23:48
  • And as it happens, DeeDuu's link to the SEP above covers the topic better than my rambling. – N. Presley Nov 27 '17 at 5:49
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In Hinduism, there are two words eershya which is usually translated to jealousy, and asooya which gets translated as envy but really has no equivalent. Asooya is depicting or perceiving a positive quality (guna) as negative (dosha). Going by these definitions, asooya is more morally objectionable because it impedes personal growth with greater strength. Sorry this is not what you may be looking for.

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