Misanthropy

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Misanthropy is generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species, human nature, or society. A misanthrope is someone who holds such views or feelings. The word's origin is from Greek words μῖσος (misos, "hatred") and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, "man, human being").

Contents

In Western Thought

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 mankind may be mistaken for genuine misanthropy. Jonathan Swift is widely accused of misanthropy (see A Tale of a Tub and, most especially, Book IV of Gulliver's Travels).

Moliere's character Alceste in Le Misanthrope (1666) states:

Samuel Beckett once remarked that "Hell must be like... reminiscing about the good old days when we wished we were dead." — a statement that may, perhaps, be seen as utterly bleak and hopeless, but not as anti-human or expressive of any hatred of mankind.

Philosophy

In Western philosophy, misanthropy has been connected to isolation from human society. In Plato's Phaedo, Socrates 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."[2] Misanthropy, then, is presented as the result of thwarted expectations or even excess 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.[3] Aristotle follows a more ontological 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 of misanthropy as a "beast-like state."[4]

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