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Views of Ben Ze’Ev Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2020

As explained by Ben-Ze’ev (2000), “envy is that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess” (Ben-Ze’eve, 2000).

In fact Ben-Ze’ev (2000) goes on to explain through numerous examples that envy is basically the result of one’s own desire to improve their personal lot over their neighbor and as such fuels aspects related to bitterness, anger and even a form of crab mentality.

Jealousy on the other, as explained by Ben-Ze’eve (2000) involves a negative evaluation of the possibility of losing something, particularly a favorable human relationship. It must be noted though that jealously focuses exclusively on human relationships whereas envy has no such boundaries.

Basically, what Ben-Ze’ev (2000) is trying to imply regarding envy and jealousy is that both are negative and self-destructive emotions which promote the “self” over the expense of others.

One particular example in the present day where such emotional clusters are evident is in the obsession over the use of credit cards in the U.S. and the development of “the entitlement mentality” wherein people feel that they deserve certain things even when it comes at the expense of other people.

Studies such as those by Janes (2009) reveal that people within the U.S. are obsessed over the use of credit cards due to their belief that they “deserve” to have thing immediately instead of saving and earning in order to acquire them (Janes, 2009).

This comes as a direct result of feelings of entitlement and envy wherein if they see someone they know flaunting something they don’t have they attempt to mitigate these feelings of envy by purchasing the same item on credit despite not having the current monetary means to afford it.

This particular behavior is in line with what Ben-Ze’ev (2000) indicates as the response of most individuals to envy wherein they try to address this feeling of loss or inadequacy by obtaining the same item.

This was also seen in the 2008 financial crisis wherein borrowers defaulted on their promises of payment for homes they couldn’t afford (A dangerous game, 2011). This was a clear cut case of entitlement and envy resulting in the problem being passed over to tax payers.

In the case of jealously, it is often seen that boyfriends would act extremely possessive of their girlfriends especially in cases when it comes male friends.

Such an emotion usually gives rise to a certain degree of paranoia over the potential for loss which results in actions such as banning the girl from wearing particular outfits, saying that she shouldn’t hang out with male friends or that they should delete all their male acquaintances from their contact list.

This particular behavior is in line with what Ben-Ze’ev (2000) indicates as the “three party relation” wherein it is the threat of others in an exclusive relationship that drives people to develop paranoid thoughts and feelings resulting in self-destructive and at times harmful behaviors.

Romantic love and Sexual Desire – Teenage and Old Age Love

From the perspective of Ben Ze’ev (2000) there is an inherent difference between romantic love and sexual desire with many often mistaking sexual desire for romantic love. As Ben Ze’ev explains, sexual desire is more instinctual than it is intellectual in that a person may develop a sexual desire for an individual within a relatively short period of time.

For him this is considered a transitory and often temporary emotional state due to its biological nature and as such is considered the “lowest form” of love in that it is dependent on physical attraction which often wanes rather than true romantic interest which often creates a loving and caring relationship.

One of the best examples of this can be seen in the emotional turmoil often found in many teenagers in high school. During this particular stage in their lives it is actually quite common for many teenagers to mistake sexual desire for romantic love and as such results in a great deal of promiscuity in regards to sexual activities.

The inherent problem with this particular state, as explained by Ben Ze’ev (2000), is that once the biological urges have been satiated what remains are two individuals who have little romantic love due to the abruptness of the relationship.

As such this often results in teenagers in high school often going through a series of relationships each time assuming that what they are experiencing is romantic love when in fact it is nothing more than sexual desire. For Ben Ze’ev (2000) romantic love can be defined as an emotional state that goes beyond physical attraction wherein two individual truly care for one another and want nothing more than the best for their partner.

In other words true romantic love is sacrificial love in that a person would willingly put their partner ahead of themselves in order to make them happy. A particularly touching example of this particular form of love can be seen in two people that have been together for 40 years or more.

The way they look at each other, the way in which they hold hands, walk together and do all that they can to be together is evidence of true romantic love that has withstood the test of time.

This particular case is similar to the view of Ben Ze’eve (2000) in that romantic love doesn’t always involve physical attraction but rather involves a certain degree of emotional attachment and desire to be with that person out of love and not out of the desire for sex.

Happiness in the Misery of Others

For Ben Ze’ev (2000) the emotional cluster of deriving happiness from the misery or misfortune of others is inherently part of our desire to get ahead or be superior.

This is innately connected to the concept of envy or jealousy wherein people who we believe don’t deserve what they have and subsequently lose it results in the creation of a certain degree of happiness on our part as we see those who were once ahead of us humbled and brought down to our level.

This particular emotional cluster is not exclusive to individuals who have a warped sense of thinking rather as Ben Ze’ev suggests all individuals in one way or another derive some form of happiness or contentment from the misery of certain individuals.

One particular case where this is evident is one where a person who was once considered the richest person in class and flaunted his/her wealth all of a sudden becomes humbled as a direct result of his/her family losing their financial status as a direct result of the 2008 financial crisis.

In this particular instance the people in class derive a certain degree of pleasure (though they will not readily admit it) to see someone that was once unreachable brought down to the level of a regular person. Ben Ze’ev elaborates more on this concept by stating that people often want themselves instead of others to get ahead.

As such when instances come about where misfortune affects those who were once ahead of them the result is the development of feelings of happiness as those individuals realize that they have once more “gotten ahead”.

From a certain perspective this particular method of thinking has developed as a direct result of the competitive nature of society wherein people cannot help but want to get ahead of each other due to one’s degree of success being the measure of one’s worth in society.

Hate, Anger, Disgust and Contempt

From the perspective of Ben Ze’ev emotional states related to hate, anger, disgust and contempt are all a result of viewing an individual as being “incompatible” with either a particular way of thinking, culture or basically any aspect that is the complete opposite of what the observer is. It is this “difference” that sparks the negative behaviors inherent in us all that create acts of prejudice, preference and discrimination.

In fact Ben Ze’eve goes on to explain that this particular form of behavior is directly related to perception wherein people have the tendency to view things that are out of their comfort zone as being distinctly negative. One particular example of this particular emotional cluster can be seen in the attitudes and resistance against the LGBT community (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transsexual).

All too often it can be seen in the news today that religious groups often protest and clash violently against the LGBT due to their perception that what such individuals stand for is an affront to the relationship standards that God created.

From this example alone it can be seen that the negative perception associated with members of the LGBT community is a direct result of a perception that what they are doing is outside of the norm and as such is an affront to the standards in which people are used to. This negative perception creates hate, then subsequently anger and culminates in disgust and contempt for people that are openly gay.

There have been numerous examples of such acts throughout history, such as the Holocaust in Germany and the discrimination against African Americans within the U.S. which lasted several hundred years.

Taking this into consideration it can be seen that Ben Ze’ev does make an effective point in that the origin of hate, anger, disgust and contempt is usually a case of something outside of established norms being introduced which results in a subsequent backlash against its introduction.

Pride and Shame

It is interesting to note that from the perspective of Ben Ze’ev (2000) pride is equated to the emotional state wherein one is proud of one’s actions while shame on the other hand is a distinct level of disappointment over the result of an action committed.

For Ben Ze’ev (2000) this particular cluster of emotion directly relates to the concept of caring about the “self” wherein we evaluate the results of actions and the resulting addition or subtraction to our perception of self worth.

Examples of this particular behavior can be seen when a person succeeds in scoring a soccer goal and thus feels pride over the extent of his skills. Conversely a person can also feel a certain degree of shame over missing a supposedly easy goal.

Taking both examples into consideration it can be seen that this particular cluster of emotions, based on the work of Ben Ze’ve, is related to perceptions about the self. This means that pride and shame are emotional states related to what a person perceives as either contributing or minimizing the amount of self-worth attributed to them.

Another example can be seen wherein a student has successfully passed and test with excellent scores but only did so through cheating. While the end result was a positive one the student still feels a certain degree of shame due to his negative evaluation of himself despite the success of the action committed.

What must be understood is that the concept of self-worth can either have a positive or negative evaluation based on the result of one’s actions and this is where the cluster of emotions related to pride and shame comes into the picture.

Hope and Fear

Based on the work of Ben Ze’ev (2000) it can be seen that hope is an emotional state which looks towards the future and expects a positive results. This means that despite the degree of apprehension most individuals have regarding future events it is hope that gives them the ability to look forwards despite the odds being against them.

For example, in cases of war, rebellion or economic destitution it is feelings related to hope that give people the ability to continue striving to live another day despite the sheer difficulty of living on a daily basis. Another example is for people who have developed cancer and are in effect going to the hospital on a daily basis with the hope that their cancer cells will be reduced through treatment.

Fear on the other hand is more of a primal emotional state which Ben Ze’ev describes as part of the flight or flight mechanism of the body which helps to ensure an individual’s continued safety.

For example, fear is the feeling when you are held up at knife point in some dark alley with the attacker demanding all your money, fear is the sensation you feel just before a major life changing examination and finally fear is the emotional state a girl experiences when she finds out she’s pregnant for the first time.

As such it can be seen that hope and fear are emotional states which are impacted by external circumstances resulting in person feeling fear at first then having hope for the possibility of a solution presenting itself.

Happiness and Sadness

Based on the work of Ben Ze’Ev (2000) it can be seen that happiness and sadness are emotional states of being which are created through events which create either positive or negative emotional states. In this particular case happiness can be described as emotional state wherein the factors that fulfill a particular individual’s “requirements” for happiness are met.

This can come in the form of a high school student passing a test, a person successfully losing weight or a person’s mother recovering from an illness. As Ben Ze’ev explains each individual has their own measure of happiness and as such what makes a person happy is unique to each person. The same can be said about the emotional state of sadness wherein it takes specific unique factors to make a person sad.

This can come in the form of their favorite pet dying, their favorite restaurant closing down, or failing a particular test. It is based on this that it can be seen that happiness and sadness as emotional states are only fulfilled through specific requirement which if they aren’t fulfilled will not result in such states coming about.

Pride, Regret, Guilt and Embarrassment

From the perspective of Ben Se’ev (2000), pride, regret, guilt and embarrassment are all a result of individuals taking into account their specific deeds and measuring them against a moral framework.

For example, a person would normally feel proud of passing a test but if they had cheated instead of studying to pass it they would subsequently feel guilt and embarrassment over being praised for something which they didn’t work hard to do. It is based on this that from the perspective of Ben Se’ev such feelings act as “limiters” in that they help to ensure such actions are not repeated in the future.

Reference List

A dangerous game. (2011). Economist, 400(8758), 31.

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2000). The Subtlety of Emotions. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Janes, E. (2009). LIFE AFTER DEBT. Redbook, 212(4), 174.

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