John Rawls on Resentment - Dictionary of Arguments
Resentment/Psychology/Society/Rawls: We assume that people are not influenced by psychological tendencies in the initial situation of a society to be established (in which no one knows their future position).
Psychology: only comes into consideration in a later stage. Disfavour can become a problem if the social differences have become very large due to the difference principle (see Difference Principle/Rawls).
Resentment: we refer to interpersonal comparisons in the use of objective primary goods (e. g. freedoms, income, prosperity). The hostile contemplation of the larger shares of others would then be resentment, even if these differences do not imply any reduction of our own shares. Those who notice the resentment of others may develop a fear of attack. Thus, resentment reduces the benefits of all members of the community. An unfavourable person could also be tempted to take actions that make all those involved look worse, only to reduce the discrepancy between the worse-offs and the better-offs. Kant calls the resentment therefore a vice of hatred for mankind(1).
Since resentment is not a moral feeling, we do not need a moral principle to explain it. It is sufficient to note that the better situation of others attracts our attention.
Definition Resentment/Rawls: On the other hand, it is a moral feeling. It is present when we think that the reason why we have less than others is either the result of unjust institutions or a misconduct on the part of the better-offs. Those who display resentment must be prepared to justify it and show why certain institutions of society work to their disadvantage or that others have cheated on them.
Resentment: differs from moral feelings by the perspective from which a situation is viewed.
(1) Cf. I. Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, p. II, § 36._____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
A Theory of Justice: Original Edition Oxford 2005