I’ll Show You: Spite As A Reactive Attitude

Krista Karbowski Thomason, Swarthmore College


Spite is typically considered a vicious emotion that causes us to engage in petty, vindictive, and sometimes self-destructive behavior. Even though it has this bad reputation, I will argue that spite is a reactive attitude. Spite is emotional defiance of another’s command: to spite you, I will do something exactly because you told me not to. Our liability to feelings of spite presupposes that we recognize others as having practical authority, which is why it qualifies as a reactive attitude. I conclude by offering conditions under which spite can be justified and unjustified.