Misanthropy is generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope, or misanthropist 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").


Western thought


Misanthropy has been ascribed to a number of writers of satire, such as William S. Gilbert ("I hate my fellow-man"). Jonathan Swift is widely believed to be misanthropic (see A Tale of a Tub and, most especially, Book IV of Gulliver's Travels).

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

My hate is general, I detest all men;
Some because they are wicked and do evil,
Others because they tolerate the wicked,
Refusing them the active vigorous scorn
Which vice should stimulate in virtuous minds.[1]

In Emily Brontë's most famous novel, Wuthering Heights, the eponymous setting—the home of Heathcliff—is referred to as a "perfect misanthrope's Heaven."


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 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.[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]

It is important to distinguish between philosophical pessimism and misanthropy. Immanuel Kant 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) or enmity towards them.[5] The condition can arise partly from dislike and partly from ill-will.[5]

Another example of mistaken misanthropy is Jean-Paul Sartre'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, 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 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.


Deep ecology, as upheld by thinkers such as Pentti Linkola and Earth First! founder David Foreman, has been criticized as being misanthropical by Murray Bookchin.[6]

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? Einstein gives the example of a cultured man who states that the destruction of humanity would not be a bad thing.[7]


Serial killers and other sociopaths frequently express misanthropic attitudes. Serial murderer Carl Panzram 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, a skeptic of Islam, and Muhammad ibn Zakariya ar-Razi often expressed misanthropic views.[8]

In the Judeo-Islamic philosophies (800–1400), the Jewish philosopher Saadia Gaon, uses the Platonic idea that the self-isolated man is dehumanized by friendlessness[9] to argue against the misanthropy of anchorite asceticism and reclusiveness.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Act I. Eight Plays by Moliere Modern Library College Editions LCCCN 57-11167 p227
  2. ^ Stern, Paul (1993). Socratic rationalism and political philosophy: an interpretation of Plato's Phaedo. SUNY Press. pp. 94. ISBN 9780791415733. http://books.google.com/?id=nJAFnvm2fg4C&pg=PA94. 
  3. ^ Stern 95.
  4. ^ Jowett, John (2004). The Oxford Shakespeare: The life of Timon of Athens. Oxford UP. p. 29. ISBN 9780192814975. http://books.google.com/?id=gHTKzYKrh6wC&pg=PA29. 
  5. ^ a b Immanuel Kant, Lectures on ethics, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 191 ISBN 0521788048
  6. ^ P. R. Hay, Main currents in western environmental thought, Indiana University Press, 2002, p. 66, ISBN 0253340535
  7. ^ Einstein, Albert. Why Socialism ?. Monthly Review. 50.1. May 1949. End of ¶ 6.
  8. ^ Stroumsa, Sarah (1999). Freethinkers of Medieval Islam: Ibn Al-Rawāndī , Abū Bakr Al-Rāzī and Their Impact on Islamic Thought. Brill Publishers. p. 9. ISBN 9004113746 
  9. ^ McLoughlin, Gavin (2003). Friendliness; and my fight against it. Touchstone Press. pp. 2–6 
  10. ^ Goodman, Lenn Evan (1999). Jewish and Islamic Philosophy: Crosspollinations in the Classic Age. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 25–6. ISBN 0748612777 

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  • Misanthropy — Mis*an thro*py, n. [Gr. ?: cf. F. misanthropie.] Hatred of, or dislike to, mankind; opposed to {philanthropy}. Orrery. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • misanthropy — (n.) 1650s, from Gk. misanthropia hatred of mankind, from misanthropos (see MISANTHROPE (Cf. misanthrope)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • misanthropy — [mi san′thrə pē, mi zan′thrə pē] n. [Gr misanthrōpia] hatred or distrust of all people …   English World dictionary

  • Misanthropy — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Misanthropy >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 misanthropy misanthropy incivism Sgm: N 1 egotism egotism &c.(selfishness) 943 Sgm: N 1 moroseness moroseness &c. 901a Sgm: N 1 cynicism cynicism GRP: N 2 …   English dictionary for students

  • misanthropy — noun Hatred or dislike of people or mankind. Hence gloom and misanthropy have become the characteristics of the age in which we live, the solace of a disappointment that unconsciously finds relief only in the wilful exaggeration of its own… …   Wiktionary

  • misanthropy — [[t]mɪzæ̱nθrəpi[/t]] N UNCOUNT Misanthropy is a general dislike of people. [FORMAL] …   English dictionary

  • misanthropy — misanthrope (also misanthropist) ► NOUN ▪ a person who dislikes and avoids other people. DERIVATIVES misanthropic adjective misanthropy noun. ORIGIN from Greek misein to hate + anthr pos man …   English terms dictionary

  • misanthropy — noun Date: 1625 a hatred or distrust of humankind …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • misanthropy — /mis an threuh pee, miz /, n. hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind. [1650 60; < Gk misanthropía. See MISANTHROPE, Y3] * * * …   Universalium

  • misanthropy — Aversion to and hatred of human beings. [G. miseo, to hate, + anthropos, man] * * * mis·an·thro·py mis an(t) thrə pē n, pl pies a hatred or distrust of humankind * * * mis·an·thro·py (mis anґthrə pe) [miso + anthrop + ia] hatred of human… …   Medical dictionary

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