This fallacy occurs when a person infers a fault in another based on the emotion of envy. The fallacy has the following form:
Premise 1: Person A feels envious of person B.
Conclusion: Therefore, person B has fault F.
This reasoning is fallacious because a feeling of envy does not prove that a person has a fault or flaw. This error is tempting because people are often inclined to think badly of those they envy.
While envy is often seen as a negative emotion, the feeling of envy is not a fallacy. “Envy” and “jealousy” are often used interchangeably but some people do prefer to distinguish them. The usual distinction is that envy is a discontented or covetous desire for something possessed by another while jealousy is a state of being possessive and suspicious.
While often self-inflicted, this fallacy can also be inflicted on others. In this case, the objective is to invoke envy in a person and so get them to believe that someone else has a fault.
This fallacy is distinct from the Accusation of Envy fallacy. That fallacy is an Ad Hominem like fallacy in which it is inferred that a person’s claim is false because they are alleged to be motivated by envy.
Defense: While envy makes it easy to think negative things about others, the defense is to ask whether the claim that a person has a fault is supported by evidence. If not and there is only a feeling of envy driving the “reasoning” then this fallacy has been committed. Aside from concerns about logic, envy tends to be a damaging emotion and being on guard against it is a good idea.
“Yeah, he is rich and handsome, but I’m sure he doesn’t have any friends.”
Sally: “You know rich people are very unhappy.”
Ted: “Why think that? After all, they can solve many problems with money.”
Sally: “I just know they are. I mean, look at their amazing lives: wealth, luxury goods, trips, beautiful boyfriends, and awesomeness. They must be unhappy. They must be.
Rachel: “Wow, Alyssa ran a fast marathon last week. She must be training hard.
Gwen: “Oh, I am sure she is training hard. So hard that I bet she does not have time to have friends or enjoy herself. Me, I’ll stick with having a life. My times might be slower, but I know I am happier.”