Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 M - Misanthropy


Misanthropy: Hatred of human beings, or contempt or disdain for ordinary men and their doings.

Ordinary men, religious leaders, professional politicians, and con-men generally purport to despise misanthropists, but it may make a considerable difference what manner of men any given supposed misanthropists dislikes and what manner of men he lives amongst.

In any case, Chamfort, a very witty French 18th Century aphorist, known as "the laughing misanthropist", correctly wrote

"Pour avoir une idée juste des choses, il faut prendre les mots dans la signification opposée à celle qu'on leur donne dans le monde. Misanthrope, par exemple, cela veut dire Philanthrope; mauvais Français, cela veut dire bon Citoyen, qui indique certains abus monstrueux; Philosophe, homme simple, qui sait que deux et deux font quatre, etc."

"La faiblesse de charactère ou le défaut des idées (..) sont les choses qui préservent beaucoup de gens de la misanthropie."

It may well be that ordinary men, their intelligence, knowledge, interests, concerns, and ways of acting, especially to foreigners or when they believe themselves not to be found out, are such as to necessarily inspire something not far from detestation, contempt or disgust in any highly gifted, learned and kind man, and that, for such a man, it is natural and wise to hold, again with Chamfort, that

"La meilleure Philosophie, rélativement au monde, est d'allier, à son régard, le sarcasme de gaité avec l'indulgence du mépris."

And indeed, for good and intelligent men who know a lot about the ways of the world and human history, it is not easy to escape from something that resembles misanthropy with regard to the human average, or the ordinary types of political, religious or business leaders.


See also: Chamfort, Cynicism, Melancholy, Ordinary men



 Original: Jan 29, 2007                                                   Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top