Misanthropy is commonly misinterpreted and distorted as a widespread and individualized hatred of humans. Because of this, the term often associates a great number of false negative tie-ins with the term. An extreme misanthrope may indeed hate the human race generally, but it doesn't necessarily entail psychopathy. In actuality, it exists as a form of elitism. Misanthropes can hold normal and intimate relationships with people, but they will often be very few and far in between. They will typically be very selective of who they will associate with. This is also where their aversion is most prevalent, because their perspective shows an overriding contempt towards common human faults and weaknesses in others and in some cases, themselves.
It's because of that aversion that most misanthropes will often be categorized as loners, living in recluse. They generally won't find solace or effective functioning in society as a result of their perspective.
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 inherently improper and needs to be saved, while some philosophers and their adherents view humanity as a futile, self-destructive species.
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.
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.
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 Jonathan Swift, in a letter to the poet Alexander Pope concerning Gulliver's Travels, a novel penned by the former, wrote: "[but] principally I hate and detest that animal called man." Lemuel Gulliver, considered by several critics to be Swift's mouthpiece and literary alter ego, expresses an overwhelming disgust with respect to human beings, particularly in "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms".
In the novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Hyde is depicted as the cruel, remorseless, uninhibited transfiguration of the gentle Dr. Henry Jekyll whenever the noted doctor drank a potion.
Finally, the most well-known literary misanthrope is Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. The word “scrooge” is now nearly synonymous with miser and misanthrope.
The eponymous protagonist of Comte de Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror is misanthropic to the point of absurdity, lending to the interpretation that the book is a parody of Romanticism. In one episode, Maldoror goes so far as to fire a musket at sailors swimming toward shore from a sinking ship and then makes love to a female shark that was feeding on them.
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 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.
Randall Graves of the film "Clerks" is both referred to as, and admits to being a misanthrope.
One last fond look back ; University of Maine basketball great Jamie Cassidy returns to Alfond Arena today to see her No. 24 jersey retired.
Jan 30, 2005; KEVIN THOMAS Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 01-30-2005 One last fond look back ; University of Maine basketball great...