AskDefine | Define misanthropic

Dictionary Definition

misanthropic adj
1 believing the worst of human nature and motives; having a sneering disbelief in e.g. selflessness of others [syn: cynical, misanthropical]
2 hating mankind in general [syn: misanthropical]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From mis- (not, negative, disliking) + anthropic (human).

Pronunciation

Adjective

  1. Hating or disliking mankind.

Antonyms

See also

Extensive Definition

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.

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.
Some religions, or schools of religious thought, maintain that humanity as a whole is evil, or an unnatural cancer on the earth, leading to their practitioners turning themselves into religious misanthropes.

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 misanthropes.
The character of Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights is an intense misanthrope due to the societal constraints which hinder the fulfillment of his love for Cathy.
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.". 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 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."
Eighteenth century Irish satirist Johnathan Swift, in a letter to the poet Alexander Pope concerning Gulliver's Travels, a novel written by the former, wrote: "[but] principally I hate and detest that animal called man." Swift conveyed misanthropic views via narrative. Lemuel Gulliver, considered by many to be Swift's alter ego, expresses an overwhelming disgust with human beings, particularly in "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms."

Misanthropy in philosophy

In Plato's Phaedo, Socrates states, "Misology and misanthropy arise from similar causes." 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.
Seneca the Younger, in his treatise On Anger, suggests that one's misanthropy can be mitigated or cured by laughing at the foibles of humanity rather than resenting them. Seneca's Stoic philosophy regarded all forms of anger as corruptions of reason and therefore detrimental to good judgement; he thus argues that hatred and misanthropy must be eliminated for the individual to attain sanity.
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 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.

Misanthropy in popular culture

Comic books/graphic novels

Cerebus the Aardvark is often described as being a misanthropic character. Dave Sim's aardvark protagonist lives among humans and has always disliked them despite living with them.
The character of Poison Ivy, a villain in the Batman franchise, exhibited strong misanthropic characteristics, as portrayed in comic books, television series and film. She very openly expressed an aggressive and violent disdain for human beings, as she displayed a neurotic preference for the botanical world. She is depicted as being an inmate of an asylum for the criminally insane.

Television

The character of Bernard Black from the series Black Books, can be defined as a misanthrope. Most of the humour derives from such a man dealing with the public in a retail shop.
The character of Gregory House, MD on the TV show of the same name is misanthropic and often opines that all people lie and generally behave poorly to each other, especially when their own self-interest is at stake. When confronted with someone whose behavior or philosophy flies in the face of his opinions, he will often go to great lengths to prove that his underlying philosophies are, in fact, correct.
Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street exhibits misanthropic behavior.
Daria Morgendorffer from MTV's Daria is a misanthrope. In the season finale, she wins the Dian Fossey Award "for dazzling academic achievements in face of near total misanthropy."

Cinema

The character of Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2007 film There Will Be Blood, is presented as a ruthless misanthrope interested only in his self-centered quest for power as an oil baron.

Popular music

The topic is used frequently in most extreme music lyrics, from hardcore punk to black metal. Famous example is the song "Misanthrope" written by Chuck Schuldiner, the deceased singer/leadguitarist of the group Death. The songs lyrics in a way describes how misanthropic thoughts grow on the humans who later become misanthropes, and how there is hope for them that eventually turns out to be misanthropes. Shai Hulud are also a band of misanthropes from the hardcore metal scene. Their recent album Misanthropy Pure is an example of this.

Other

Lee Chung, the main antagonist to Callum Archer in Thomas Steadman's "Flames of the West" shows very Misanthropic traits.
Wicked's Elphaba Thropp (Miss Thropp) has a great disdain for humanity and has been referred to as a misanthrope.
Stand-up comedian Bill Hicks would sometimes perform material that could be classed as misanthropic and would sometimes subject unreceptive audiences to misanthropic rants.

References

See also

misanthropic in Catalan: Misantropia
misanthropic in Danish: Misantropi
misanthropic in German: Misanthropie
misanthropic in Spanish: Misantropía
misanthropic in French: Misanthropie
misanthropic in Galician: Misantropía
misanthropic in Italian: Misantropia
misanthropic in Lithuanian: Mizantropija
misanthropic in Dutch: Misantroop
misanthropic in Norwegian: Misantropi
misanthropic in Polish: Mizantropia
misanthropic in Portuguese: Misantropia
misanthropic in Russian: Мизантропия
misanthropic in Sicilian: Bacuccu
misanthropic in Swedish: Misantropi
misanthropic in Ukrainian: Мізантропія

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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