On Jealousy.

I have begun re-reading a collection of Russell’s work titled Mortals and Others. Short essays – rather – musings on thoughts and whims that may have floated much like the fluff of his hair, atop his head. The first of his topics is on jealousy.

Russell begins by invoking Shakespeare. Othello stands wrong in murdering Desdemona for she was innocent. Had she been guilty of the claim (adultery), Othello’s actions would have been “becoming to an officer and a gentlemen”. This he suggests is the traditional outlook on jealousy: to condemned and frowned upon when unfounded, and lauded when cause for it presents itself.

You crafty old devil. Source: www.corbisimages.com

You crafty old devil. Source: http://www.corbisimages.com

Russell deals primarily with sexual jealousy because let’s face it, what more primal form of jealousy exists? To quote again, should you be swindled of your wealth you reserve the right to anger, however you are expected redress through the judiciary – not private action. It is this line which draws itself, undrawn, between sexual jealousy where private vengeance may be exacted and more importantly, understood.

Has this stance on jealousy altered in the past 83 years since this opinion was written?

Venturing a guess I would say not. Though perhaps less extreme forms of jealousy have been tamed from violence to an extent (wealth, fame, intelligence, authority) , there is still an unspoken savagery when it comes to jealousy with regards to one’s partner. While holding one’s significant other to a higher moral code, it becomes easier for one to allow a certain a degree of freedom in practicing the same code. Russell finds that it is on the basis of a Leontief function that we must judge moral codes.

Moral Code = min{ own moral code ; moral code set for others }

But if not for the double standard how else would we rationalise our deeds?

Repeated iteration is one way. As a child you are teased for whatever reason kids tease other kids for, your hair, clothes, or simply lack in cultural tastes. The first time you are hurt and un-understanding of this mockery. Overtime however you come to laugh with the crowd and dish out as much as you take. Russell claims that this works for more graver matters too. Should you hold yourself however to a higher standard, not exempt from the daily hypocrisies of others, you should be acclaimed for it. Sure there’s much pomp and high horsed-ness involved, but if sacrificing double standard for pompousness, the choice is obvious.

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