The Misanthrope as a Disappointed Idealist

Posted on 2017-11-13 By Joanna

Misanthropy is a generalized dislike or hatred of humans. Usually, it isn't directed towards any individual in particular, although each individual person can serve as an example the misanthrope can use to justify and explain his attitude and reasoning.

The basis of this philosophy is a despise of human beings. The potential for a development of any noble, virtuous, and truly kind society is a source of a great laughter for the misanthrope. We are doomed to fail because it's a mistake that we exist on the first place – there is nothing positive about people who are led by greed, hatred, irrationality, selfishness, and clumsiness. How can one expect them to accomplish anything truly great? There is more wickedness than goodness and the sole reason for this imbalance, as seen by the misanthrope, is a human being alone.

It is quite apparent, based on this description, that the misanthrope is a truly disappointed idealist. His expectations towards others were not only not met, but also torn apart by the numerous experiences and observations leading him to develop a bitter perspective, a perspective that stands in a direct opposition to his initial beliefs and hopes.

Just like a cynic, consumed by his bitterness and crushed hopes, our ex-idealist has been also dreadfully disillusioned by the reality he has come to know, which bares no resemblance to the world he would hope to see.

The source of misanthropy, therefore, lies not in a pure hatred or aggression, but in the unanswered demand and possibly, unrealistic expectations. The world that the misanthrope has hoped to experience does not exist. And people, as the main source of his current perspective (perhaps even misery), appear to him as savages, monsters, and barbarians, not capable of resembling his ideals. Thus, the disappointment of an idealist turns into resentment, then dislike, and eventually, into a despise and hatred. People are, therefore, seen as those who undermine his work, his vision of an ideal world, and his desire to make the world a better place.

To truly understand the misanthropy, we must first understand what has led someone to arrive at this place of disappointment and resentment. What is it exactly that the idealist expected to experience and achieve before turning into a misanthrope? Since the misanthropy is directed towards humanity, the only source of his idealistic expectations can be found in his observations and interactions with others. Perhaps he hoped for kindness and was met with meanness. Perhaps he expected others to understand and share his standards and ambitions, but was met with ignorance and laziness. Perhaps his concern for others was met with selfishness and cruelty. It isn't possible to resent something we don't know - the misanthrope knows very well what he resents and why.

From the perspective of a misanthrope, however, his beliefs and attitudes are fully justified. And he might, in fact, be right in advocating his point of view. His ideals might be worth striving for. But to expect a whole world to accommodate to the idealism he's been striving for might be as unrealistic as demanding from a flower to change its colour and then getting angry at it for not complying.

The trust that the idealist placed upon others to comply with his ideals is thus - misplaced. Humans can't and won't. The idealist wakes up from his 'naivety' and faces the cruel nature of his fellow human being. To expect others to be like himself becomes a foolish mistake, a mistake that he reacts to with disgust, resentment, and dislike towards everyone. His ideals turn into disappointments and his ambitions are turned into resignation. People cannot be improved. The misanthrope is born.

Misanthropy as a form of philosophy gives us a lot to think of. It forces us to look at our own shortcomings in terms of ambition and expectations. Haven't we all been in at least one situation where all we could think of was how awful and stupid the humanity is? Aren't we all prone to blame others for not complying with our requests and for not meeting our expectations? Haven't we all, at least once, directed hate towards our own selves for not being perfect and for not being able to meet our idealistic standards?

The human nature can be perceived as being doomed for imperfection deserving contempt, just like our own, personal nature can be subjected to criticism and disappointment. This contempt, if properly directed and processed, could turn into understanding and motivation to grow, to strive towards betterment and development of ourselves and the society we are a part of – something that the misanthrope would be pleased with.

To understand the contempt towards others or ourselves, one must go to the very roots of his expectations. If we expect something unrealistic, not only we will be prone to disappointments, but also to the isolation from the reality and what is truly in front of us. A misanthrope, perhaps, struggles with the acceptance of what he sees and experiences. He wished for the world and people to be different, to be 'likeable' and 'acceptable' to him and his standards. It is true that the very things he despises might deserve nothing else but resentment and repulsion, but to cling to them and desiring to change them from a distance is fruitless. Since he feels powerless to make any changes to the people he despises, he is doomed for a never-ending and immature frustration. If he only thought about the proper way to channel his enthusiasm for idealistic standards and ambitions, and if he was willing to grow up and accept how the reality presents itself, perhaps things would be different for him and his new attitude could shield him from the crushing realizations and inhuman deeds of others.