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Misanthropy is a general dislike, distrust, or hatred of the human species, or a disposition to dislike and/or distrust other people. The term is also applicable to those who self-exile themselves or become loners because of the aforementioned feelings. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος ("hatred") and άνθρωπος ("man, human being"). A misanthrope or misanthropist is a person who dislikes or distrusts humanity as a general rule.

Misanthropy does not necessarily imply an inhumane or sociopathic attitude towards humanity.


Forms of misanthropy

While misanthropes express a general dislike for humanity on the whole, they generally have normal relationships with specific individuals. Misanthropy may be motivated by feelings of isolation or social alienation, or simply contempt for the prevailing characteristics of humanity.

Overt expressions of misanthropy are common in satire and comedy, although intense misanthropy is generally rare. Subtler expressions are far more common, especially for those pointing out the shortcomings of humanity. In extreme cases, misanthropes may remove themselves from society, becoming hermits, recluses, shut-ins, or suicides.[citation needed]

Some religions, or schools of religious thought, maintain that humanity as a whole is evil, or an unnatural cancer on the earth.

Misanthropy in literature

Misanthropy has been ascribed to a number of writers of satire, such as William S. Gilbert ("I hate my fellow-man"), but such identifications must be closely scrutinized, because a critical or darkly humorous outlook toward humankind may be easily mistaken for genuine misanthropy.

In 1992, Southern American essayist and National Review columnist Florence King, a self-described misanthrope, wrote a humorous book on the history of misanthropy called With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy.

Perhaps the most famous example of a misanthrope in literature is the protagonist in Molière's 1666 play, Alceste. (Fr. Le Misanthrope).

Iago, the villain in William Shakespeare's play Othello manipulates those around him with utter contempt and reaps a genuine pleasure from doing so. One critic has said, for Iago, "Honour, loyalty, reverence, and fidelity - the highest and the holiest virtues of humanity - are but base commodities to be bought and sold."[1]. Shakespeare's most thoroughgoing misanthropist, however, is probably the invective-spewing Timon of acts four and five of the play, Timon of Athens.

The American satirical author Kurt Vonnegut often expressed misanthropic views in his books. In one of his most popular works, Slaughterhouse Five, the protagonist Billy Pilgrim "becomes unstuck in time." He is taken hostage by the Tralfamadorians, a race able to see in 4D, who can travel through time and experience all the events in their lives, not necessarily in chronological order. Through the novel they teach him a fatalistic philosophy, summed up in the book's signature phrase, "so it goes."

In another Vonnegut novel, Breakfast of Champions, the protagonist Kilgore Trout, a science fiction author, writes many books about man destroying the world and the pointlessness of human existence. The book has passages throughout showing the destruction of earth due to man and man's pointless existence. Some quotes from the book include:
"This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast."
"Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia."
"I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours."

Some works by Franz Kafka such as The Metamorphosis and "A Hunger Artist" also display misanthropic views.

In No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "So that is what hell is. I would never have believed it. You remember: the fire and brimstone, the torture. Ah! the farce. There is no need for torture: hell is other people."

Misanthropy in philosophy

In Plato's Phaedo, Socrates states, "Misology and misanthropy arise from similar causes."[2] He equates misanthropy with misology, the hatred of speech, drawing an important distinction between philosophical pessimism and misanthropy. Immanuel Kant said, "Of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made," and yet this was not an expression of the uselessness of humanity itself. Similarly, Samuel Beckett once remarked, "Hell must be like... reminiscing about the good old days when we wished we were dead." This statement that may, perhaps, be seen as rather bleak and hopeless, but not as anti-human or expressive of any hatred of humankind.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, on the other hand, was almost certainly as famously misanthropic as his reputation. He wrote, "Human existence must be a kind of error." 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. However, his metaphysics ultimately led him to conclude that suicide was no escape from the suffering of the world. He claimed that the world was one side representation--how we perceived it, and one side will--the underlying indivisible metaphysical matter that was the basis of existence. Because suicide does not allow one to escape from the will (from which all suffering proceeds), it is pointless to kill oneself. Schopenhauer instead suggests aesthetic enjoyment as the only escape from the suffering of the world. This would be along the lines of the cathartic release points of Mozart's Requiem, or the charmingly mysterious smile of the Mona Lisa. He also offers an escape from suffering through compassion; however, he believed that very few are capable of reaching this state, and those who do reach it have rejected their humanity (further demonstrating his misanthropy).

The Finnish eco-philosopher Pentti Linkola is considered as the most influential misanthrope currently living. He has openly advocated genocide as means of population control, Social Darwinism to promote euthanasia campaigns for extermination of life unworthy of living, execution of doctors keeping stillborns alive and Plato-style aristocracy as form of governance to keep living standards low enough for sustainable ecology.

The Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was a well known misanthrope. Known for his contempt for all human beings and his enormous respect for animals such as mice and dogs, Diogenes dedicated his life to showing that the norms and conventions which most people live by are in fact worthless and utterly counterproductive to true happiness.


  1. ^ Othello. Shakespeare Online.
  2. ^ 1 Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo. The Perseus Digital Library.

See also

  • Anti-humanism
  • Cynicism, Philosophical pessimism
  • Hate, Malevolence
  • Hermit, Recluse
  • Human condition, Human nature
  • Humanism, Humanitarianism
  • Iconoclasm
  • Misandry, Misogyny
  • Misanthropology
  • Misotheism
  • Nihilism
  • Philanthropy (opposite)
  • Posthumanism
  • Racism, Sexism, Sexualism
  • Speciesism
  • Survival of the fittest
  • Theocracy
  • Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Misanthropy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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