Misanthropy

Misanthropy

Overview
Misanthropy is generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 species or human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings. The word's origin is from Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 words μῖσος (misos, "hatred") and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, "man, human being").

Misanthropy has been ascribed to a number of writers of satire, such as William S.
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Quotations

I am misanthropos, and hate mankind/For thy part, I do wish thou wert a dog/That I might love thee something.

Timon to Alcibiades in Shakespeare|Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene III

Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind

Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi 1798-1837
Encyclopedia
Misanthropy is generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 species or human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings. The word's origin is from Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 words μῖσος (misos, "hatred") and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, "man, human being").

Literature


Misanthropy has been ascribed to a number of writers of satire, such as William S. Gilbert ("I hate my fellow-man"). Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

 is widely believed to be misanthropic (see A Tale of a Tub
A Tale of a Tub
A Tale of a Tub was the first major work written by Jonathan Swift, composed between 1694 and 1697 and published in 1704. It is arguably his most difficult satire, and perhaps his most masterly...

and, most especially, Book IV of Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known simply as Gulliver's Travels , is a novel by Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of...

).

Molière's character Alceste in Le Misanthrope (1666) states:
In Emily Brontë
Emily Brontë
Emily Jane Brontë 30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best remembered for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother...

's most famous novel, Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847. It was her only novel and written between December 1845 and July 1846. It remained unpublished until July 1847 and was not printed until December after the success of her sister Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre...

, the eponym
Eponym
An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

ous setting—the home of Heathcliff
Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
Heathcliff is a fictional character in the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Owing to the novel's enduring fame and popularity, he is often regarded as an archetype of the tortured Romantic hero whose all-consuming passions destroy both himself and those around him.Legend has stereotyped...

—is referred to as a "perfect misanthrope's Heaven."

Philosophy


In Western philosophy, misanthropy has been connected to isolation from human society. In Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's Phaedo
Phaedo
Plato's Phaedo is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates, is also Plato's seventh and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days .In the dialogue, Socrates...

, Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 defines the misanthrope in relation to his fellow man: "Misanthropy develops when without art one puts complete trust in somebody thinking the man absolutely true and sound and reliable and then a little later discovers him to be bad and unreliable...and when it happens to someone often...he ends up...hating everyone." Misanthropy, then, is presented as the result of thwarted expectations or even excessively naive optimism, since Plato argues that "art" would have allowed the potential misanthrope to recognize that the majority of men are to be found in between good and evil. Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 follows a more ontological
Ontology
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

 route: the misanthrope, as an essentially solitary man, is not a man at all: he must be a beast or a god, a view reflected in the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 of misanthropy as a "beast-like state."

It is important to distinguish between philosophical pessimism and misanthropy. Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 said that "Of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made," and yet this was not an expression of the uselessness of mankind itself. Kant further stated that hatred of mankind can take two distinctive forms, aversion from men (Anthropophobia
Anthropophobia
Anthropophobia or Anthrophobia , also called interpersonal relation phobia or social phobia, is pathological fear of people or human company. It is prevalent amongst Chinese and Japanese societies.Anthropophobia is an extreme, pathological form of shyness and timidity...

) or enmity towards them. The condition can arise partly from dislike and partly from ill-will.

Another example of mistaken misanthropy is Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

's quote "Hell is other people." On the face of it, this looks deeply misanthropic, but actually Sartre was making an observation about the tendency of human beings to lack self-knowledge. We tend to project our worst fears, and our most deeply disliked personal characteristics, onto other people, rather than look inside and face them within ourselves. Thus, when we look at other people we often see the worst of what is in our own personality.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

, on the other hand, was as famously misanthropic as his reputation. He wrote that "human existence must be a kind of error." It should be added, however, that misanthropy does not necessarily equate with an inhumane attitude towards humanity. Schopenhauer concluded, in fact, that ethical treatment of others was the best attitude, for we are all fellow sufferers and all part of the same will-to-live; he also discussed suicide with a sympathetic understanding which was rare in his own time, when it was largely a taboo subject.

Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

 also showed misanthropy in his concern of the "they" — the tendency of people to conform to one view, which no-one has really thought through, but is just followed because, "they say so". Unlike Schopenhauer, Heidegger was opposed to any ethics or reason to treat others with respect.

Environmentalism


Deep ecology
Deep ecology
Deep ecology is a contemporary ecological philosophy that recognizes an inherent worth of all living beings, regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs. The philosophy emphasizes the interdependence of organisms within ecosystems and that of ecosystems with each other within the...

, as upheld by thinkers such as Pentti Linkola
Pentti Linkola
Kaarlo Pentti Linkola is a radical Finnish deep ecologist, polemicist, and fisherman. He has written widely about his ideas and is a prominent thinker in Finland, but, at the same time, is also an extremely controversial figure. He lives a simple and austere life. Linkola was occupitional...

 and Earth First!
Earth First!
Earth First! is a radical environmental advocacy group that emerged in the Southwestern United States in 1979. It was co-founded on April 4th, 1980 by Dave Foreman, Mike Roselle, Howie Wolke, and less directly, Bart Koehler and Ron Kezar....

 founder David Foreman
David Foreman
Dave Foreman is a US environmentalist and co-founder of the radical environmental movement Earth First!-Work with The Wilderness Society:...

, has been criticized as being misanthropical by Murray Bookchin
Murray Bookchin
Murray Bookchin was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics,...

.

Political economy


Detestation of people, humanity in general may be a reaction to social orders perceived as barbaric, repressive, unfair, or hyper-competitive. In his 1949 article Why Socialism?
Why Socialism?
"Why Socialism?" is an article written by Albert Einstein in May 1949 which appeared in the first issue of the socialist journal Monthly Review and is one of Einstein's most important and well known political works...

Einstein gives the example of a cultured man who states that the destruction of humanity would not be a bad thing.

Psychopathology


Serial killers and other sociopaths frequently express misanthropic attitudes. Serial murderer Carl Panzram
Carl Panzram
Carl Panzram was an American serial killer, arsonist and burglar. He is known for his confession to prison guard and only friend, Henry Lesser. In graphic detail, Panzram confessed to 22 murders, and to having sodomized over 1,000 males...

 was remembered for his violent and indiscriminate misanthropy. One of his famous quotes was "I wish all mankind had one neck so I could choke it!"

Persian thought


In early and pre-Islamic philosophy, certain thinkers such as Ibn al-Rawandi
Ibn al-Rawandi
Abu al-Hasan Ahmad ibn Yahya ibn Ishaq al-Rawandi , commonly known as Ibn al-Rawandi , was an early skeptic of Islam and a critic of religion in general. In his early days he was a Mutazilite scholar, but after rejecting the Mutazilite doctrine he adhered to Shia Islam for a brief period of time...

, a skeptic of Islam, and Muhammad ibn Zakariya ar-Razi often expressed misanthropic views.

In the Judeo-Islamic philosophies (800–1400), the Jewish philosopher
Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...

 Saadia Gaon
Saadia Gaon
Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature...

, uses the Platonic
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

 idea that the self-isolated man is dehumanized by friendlessness to argue against the misanthropy of anchorite
Anchorite
Anchorite denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, and—circumstances permitting—Eucharist-focused life...

 asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 and reclusiveness
Recluse
A recluse is a person who lives in voluntary seclusion from the public and society, often close to nature. The word is from the Latin recludere, which means "shut up" or "sequester." There are many potential reasons for becoming a recluse: a personal philosophy that rejects consumer society; a...

.

See also


  • Humanism
    Humanism
    Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

  • Misotheism
    Misotheism
    Misotheism is the "hatred of God" or "hatred of the gods" . In some varieties of polytheism, it was considered possible to inflict punishment on gods by ceasing to worship them...

  • Philosophical pessimism
    Pessimism
    Pessimism, from the Latin word pessimus , is a state of mind in which one perceives life negatively. Value judgments may vary dramatically between individuals, even when judgments of fact are undisputed. The most common example of this phenomenon is the "Is the glass half empty or half full?"...

  • Philanthropy
    Philanthropy
    Philanthropy etymologically means "the love of humanity"—love in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, or enhancing; humanity in the sense of "what it is to be human," or "human potential." In modern practical terms, it is "private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of...

  • Nihilism
    Nihilism
    Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

  • Narcissism
    Narcissism
    Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...