What Does "Misanthropy" Mean?

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The word misanthropy is derived from the Greek words meaning “hatred” and “man” or “human being.” It is a hatred or contempt for the human species or human nature. It may also refer to a generalized distrust or dislike of people. A person who has these feelings and/or withdraws from society because of them is termed a misanthrope. Misanthropy is similar to but distinguishable from concepts like philosophical pessimism and nihilism.

Misanthropic attitudes can be based on an intense alienation from or disgust with human society. A sense of the feelings that engender misanthropy can be found in a misanthrope’s definition of the term. One such entry likens misanthropy to an intelligent person having an "allergic reaction" to a more common, simple-minded person.

These kinds of ideas can arise from genuine repulsion at what human beings have done with the world. By their withdrawal from it, misanthropes may actually be exercising a form of elitism. They may still form relationships with select individuals, even while maintaining a hatred of human beings in general. Intimate relationships, however, may be rare and of short duration.

Misanthropy is sometimes mistakenly ascribed to writers of social satire. Misanthropic statements in literature are often simply a literary device. Extreme comedy and satire can make us think about what human nature really is, as well as examine our own behaviors.


Related to misanthropy is philosophical pessimism which also takes a dark view of mankind. It is not based on hatred for mankind, however. It stems from the conclusion that the very nature of being human leaves humanity in a hopeless state, in which there can never be progress.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer famously declared, “Human existence must be a kind of error.” He likened the human intellect to a lame man who can see but rides on the shoulders of a blind giant, his will. Reason only makes us suffer, because it enables us to understand that it is no match for our will. The human condition is that we will always remain prisoners of our defective biology.

Nihilism and existentialism share in common the conclusion that the human condition has no meaning. There is no proof of a higher being. There are no actions that are preferable to any others, because there are no “truths” on which to base our actions. French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre declared that there was no need to speculate about hell since man already lived in it.


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Post 7

@KaBoom - I remember that book. That "Yahoos" were quite disturbing. I was always surprised that someone chose that as the name of a search engine.

I really don't think misanthropy can be healthy. Scientific studies have shown again and again that human beings are "social animals." Shunning human society is probably a bad idea.

I know some people are just introverted, but I think misanthropy really takes it to a new level!

Post 6

When I read Gulliver's Travels in college English, I learned that some people consider the author a misanthrope. They feel this way because of the portrayal of the "Yahoos" and "Houyhnhms" in the last part of the book. The Yahoos are human beings in their baser form, and the narrator of the book grows to hate them. The Houyhnhms are horses, but they are very intelligent and wise.

At the end of the book, when the narrator returns to the normal world, he rejects his fellow man because of his experience with the Yahoos.

I can see why some people thought the author, Jonathan Swift, was a misanthrope.

Post 5

@turkay1-- I'm not an expert but I know that sometimes misanthropy is linked to 'social anxiety' which is a disorder. So the answer to your questions is that it depends. If someone is a misanthrope because they are suffering from social anxiety or some other disorder, I think it could be treated by treating the main cause through therapy, medicine and so forth.

If a person does not suffer from a psychological disorder and has decided to become a misanthrope willingly through thinking about this concept, then I think we could call that a philosophical stand.

Post 4

I feel that my grandfather is a misanthrope. He is the most grumpy man I know. I really do think that he hates all people, including us, his family. He hates to receive help or attention from us. Whenever we try to help him or spend time with him, he says that we must be after something or that we want something from him.

I've never seen him with people, he spends all of his time at home watching TV, taking care of his garden and spending time with his dogs. He says that animals are better than people, they are honest and loyal.

I'm wondering, is misanthropy a psychological disorder or a philosophical view? If it's a disorder, does it have a treatment?

I feel sad that my grandpa doesn't trust us and doesn't want to be around us. I wonder if I could help him change and see things differently.

Post 3

I've also been through stages in my life where I've felt somewhat misanthropic. I've felt that I couldn't trust people or depend on them. I've also felt that people are mean and have ill intentions towards others. I became anti-social and spent most of my time alone.

At times I've felt this way, I had bad experiences where I was hurt and disappointed with people whom I cared about. I think these experiences contributed a lot to how I was feeling. Thankfully, none of these stages lasted for very long.

I also think that misanthropy requires a lot of generalization. You can only be a misanthrope if you apply certain experiences and circumstances to the whole of mankind

. So if one person hurts a misanthrope, I think he would feel afraid of everyone else and would feel the need to protect himself and his emotions from everyone. Someone who judges people and circumstances one by one could not be a misanthrope in my view.
Post 2

@robbie21 - FYI, "misanthrope" is the noun form more commonly used than "misanthropist."

I really believed that with misanthropy meaning hatred of people, there was no word for hatred of men besides "man-hater," which has offensive anti-feminist connotations.

But I did one more Google search and I turned out to be wrong. The Greek root "andros" refers just to men or boys, so a "misandrist" is a person who hates men and/or boys. The general form would be misandry. (The online dictionary I looked at helpfully pointed out that the emphasis is on the first syllable.)

So all is fair and balanced with the world after all! You can hate just men and have your own Greek word for it! (Another use of that root is polyandry: having more than one husband. It's practiced in some parts of Tibet, where brothers may share a wife in order to keep their family from growing too large.)

Post 1

If a misanthropist hates people, and a misogynist hates women, is there specifically a name for people who hate men? Not all people, but just mean specifically?

"Anthropo" seems to be the Greek root meaning people, as in anthropology, the study of people. Or did they not have a word for just men?

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