Dissertation on the Ethics of Hatred


In this article, I will explore the various ways that humankind has shown its ability to hate and whether hatred is justified in most cases. I will define “hate” as the emotion which causes an immense negative impulse on the one expressing the emotion, toward a specific object or subject. I will try to use as many philosophical sources as I can to support my arguments and also detail, in my conclusion, whether hatred is ever justified.

Primary propositions

Honor – Justifying hatred as a false interpretation of offense

It is Schopenhauer, in his book “Aphorisms on Wisdom in Life” who spoke at length about the irreconciliable contradiction of the human mind with regards to honor, through chivalry. He says, the following about honor:

“[…]honor is not the opinion people have of particular qualities which a man may happen to possess exclusively: it is rather the opinion they have of the qualities which a man may be expected to exhibit, and to which he should not prove false.”

Chapt. 4, Section 4, Wisdom of Life, Arthur Schopenhauer

As such, we can see that a man is justified to defend his qualities, should the sociological norms dictate a specific quality of virtue, that which a man must adorn himself with, like a superfluous coating of dogma. The concept of “honor” permits any one person in society to decide to right a wrong often times with extreme prejudice. It will come to pass that in order to right a wrong, especially when this wrong is unjust, any action is deemed tolerable, within the boundaries of the law.

Considering that hatred is an easy emotion to have for human beings, it is the first course of action when the chain of cooperation is broken, per the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Human beings are tidally locked around one another, yet seem incapable of tolerating dissenting views. Each human reacts physiologically to an attempt upon their honor, whatever they deem to be honorable or virtuous. As such, like the chivalrous men of old, we tend to find it reasonable to correct those who insult us by way of returning their insult or worse, by hitting them.

“The old German theory of blood for a blow is a revolting superstition of the age of chivalry. And in any case the return or requital of an insult is dictated by anger, and not by any such obligation of honor and duty as the advocates of chivalry seek to attach to it.”


It is worth noting however, that in the 21st century, it is much less morally acceptable to draw blood upon another for having wronged you. Most of the time, the “appropriate” response is to publically sham them, and resort to dishonest tactics to kill any form of discussion. In a way, we’ve progressed, but the primal urge to keep “tit for tating” is still omnipresent in human minds. There is no reason to believe it should go away, as we are after all animals. Conversely, as we happen to be able to respect women’s rights – a thing we did not do for a very long time – it seems logical that we should begin to be more tolerant toward others.

It is Karl Popper who says, via the Tolerance Paradox:

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

The Open Society and its Enemies, by Karl Raimund Popper

To take it from Christian philosophy, “he who cast the first stone…” is a common colloquialism that was not respected at all by preachers of the religion. While we can know many noble souls in the religion of Christianity, Christianism as a doctrine bears very little ressemblence with what those who claim to be members of the religion have done with it. Honor, in religious terms, becomes traditional morality and statements of classical virtue; women should be modest, men should be dominant and forward.

It resides within superstitious ideals of moral superiority, and is quite easy to use to coax many into a game of fire of whom no one emerges truly victorious. For example: In the First World War, every side could attest to a form of propaganda that made it appear the moral superior to the other. When we can assume (approximatively) that the war was instigated by political interests of which the populace was not aware, in general, it seems likely that honor, on ethical grounds, is poorly justifiable.

This is primarily because it bases itself on superstitious beliefs of what it is to be honorable and virtuous and that any one person who might seek to touch this honor we have for ourselves must be dealt with. Laws of defamation exist, and in recent history, blogger Gabriel Roy was sued for 300,000$ and ended up having to be 60,000$. This was in the context of having written an open letter to actress Mariloup Wolfe, in which he detailed in sordid details the many sexual activities he would perform with her – consent notwithstanding – and caused a media outroar. The charges weighed against him were for defamation. Indeed, writing extensively about the presumed promiscuity of Mariloup Wolfe was considered by herself as an assault on her character.

In such a situation, what would have been the proper ethical decision? If this dissertation is to be believed, suing someone for writing an admittedly offensive letter, and having them pay 60,000$ for defamation is unethical. Indeed, hatred from one side to the other is unjustified in all cases. In the situation where one is a public figure, there is an impact on one’s image, and thus the issue of honor shares a comorbidity with one’s career, in that one impacts the other.

Were Mariloup not a public figure, this would have likely not resulted in as big a media backlash. I would like to insert my personal opinion here about this case, so as to not seem as though I am defending Mr. Roy’s open letter: I do find it heavily reprehensible for a man to write things as he did, presumably to receive affection from a woman who had just been separated from her lover. Considering the actress’s position and standing, it becomes a dangerous game. I put into question here whether making Gabriel Roy pay such a sum was necessary. A public apology would have sufficed, but in this day of capitalism, making someone pay such a large amount for a rather idiotic open letter is akin to bleeding them dry with your sword.

As such, honor does not justify ruining someone’s life to the extent that was done here, simply for having written an open letter. Per Karl Popper’s statement on the tolerance paradox, this is an example of intolerance, which is used to proclaim virtue upon a woman who until now, had not been attacked in this way publically. It would have been sufficient to demand excuses OR a paid sum of 60,000$, should the apology not be given, and a withdrawal of all written offenses. Ethically speaking, it would have righted the wrong without needlessly punishing Mr. Roy. It would have served as an example of a tolerant society, where defamation is suppressed and criminalized, but not to the extent where an attempt on the offender’s life is made. Regardless, Mr. Roy was then condemned to prison for having had sex with an underaged female. Some would say he received his just dessert.

State or Peer-sanctioned hatred

It is “State Hatred” when the state is at the root of the hatred. Nominally, a political party stirs hatred within the populace, to firstly justify it and then its outcome. As hatred normally accompanies violence wherever it goes, a “justified” hatred through political means will permit those imbued with it with the moral authority to do as they please with those that they hate. Particularly because State-sanctioned hatred begets peer-sanctioned hatred.

State-sanctioned hatred can also beget peer-sanctioned hatred if it lacks a position for or against a particular situation which society is virulently debating in the negative. An example could be the Monarchs during the French Revolution, who did little to reassure the French revolutionaries that they were righteous rulers.

[Andress, David. French Society in Revolution, 1789-1799. France: Manchester University Press, 1999, pp.16-18]

“During this period, the role of the royal police was far more involved than simply upholding the law. Police held responsibility over many systems in society, even street sweeping, it also exercised a strict control over food supply.”

A few decades prior, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings had been publically admonished and authorities in France and Switzerland had censored his writings, as they did not accord with his peers’ teachings and clashed with the philosophical and moral values of the time. Rousseau himself was fond of Montaigu

In 1756, a year after the publication of the Second Discourse, Rousseau and Therese Levasseur left Paris after being invited to a house in the country by Mme. D’Epinay, a friend to the philosophes. His stay here lasted only a year and involved an affair with a woman named Sophie d’Houdetot, the mistress of his friend Saint-Lambert. In 1757, after repeated quarrels with Mme. D’Epinay and her other guests including Diderot, Rousseau moved to lodgings near the country home of the Duke of Luxemburg at Montmorency.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Voltaire and Diderot, among others ridiculed Rousseau in his later life, for having gone the wrong direction. While these men were all instrumental in helping propagate hatred into the people toward their rulers, they had an internal quarrel of their own. Their writings still ended up permitting the people to use their widespread hatred to kill their oppressors, which followed into the “Reign of Terror”, which is regarded by philosophers of the enlightenment as a demonstration of the errors of democracy.

Inevitably, John Adams wrote, democracy never lasts long, because it invariably leads to bloodshed. As such, is peer-sanctioned hatred worthy of commendation, when we recognize that the people of France lived under systemic oppression by the Monarchs and Aristocrats? Surely, history has demonstrated that man, regardless of modes of governance, will take to bloodshed, as Adams himself recognized.

http://classroom.synonym.com/did-john-adams-say-democracy-never-lasts-long-7843.html – For this last paragraph.

When we look to the current state of American politics and their elections, with (as of the 15th of September 2016) two candidates, both of which have a sizeable amount of hatred being thrown on equal standing and presumably with the same virtuous claims. Are we left to presume, as did Rousseau, that we “transposed hatred for strangers with love for the nation” ?

See J-J Rousseau, First Discourse on Science and Arts

Because it seems to follow that if we love only our nation, there is no choice but to hate the others. It is telling and deafeningly so, that what we omit sometimes speaks more loudly than what we say. Nationalism is an irrational love of the state, which means we refuse the possibility of it being attacked or diminished by any external agent. Whether it be dissenting thought or enemies of the state (the two often go hand in hand, depending on your point of view). We can hide this fact behind the idea that science born from this nationalism is evidence and proof that our irrational hatred provides dividents.

“The attack on sciences continues as Rousseau articulates how they fail to contribute anything positive to morality. They take time from the activities that are truly important, such as love of country, friends, and the unfortunate. Philosophical and scientific knowledge of subjects such as the relationship of the mind to the body, the orbit of the planets, and physical laws that govern particles fail to genuinely provide any guidance for making people more virtuous citizens. Rather, Rousseau argues that they create a false sense of need for luxury, so that science becomes simply a means for making our lives easier and more pleasurable, but not morally better.”

IEP, J-J Rousseau, First Discourse on Science and Arts

Ethically speaking, when we are given peer-sanctioned hatred, anything can be used to sanctify hatred, so long as it is agreed-upon by other members of society. Even moreso if these members also agree with what the State says. The Nazi debacle of the Second Great War is evidence of this but so is much of  the propaganda that accompanied the Creel Commission: Rather than remain the peaceful, isolationist population it was prior to Woodrow Wilson’s election, the American people were convinced to hate the other and love their country… But especially love to wage war.


Rachel Botsman, Roo Rogers, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (NY: HarperCollins, 2010), 21

Noam Chomsky in his book on Media Control went over this and I also did in another one of my blog posts regarding Democracy. He wrote, in it:

“The Wilson administration was actually committed to war and had to do something about it. They established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.”

N. Chomsky, Media Control, P.11

The following decades are part of history, as we like to presume that this was how the American spirit was born; budding and courageous entrepreneurs taking risks to make the American economy flourish and expand the American Dream across all members of the nation. Love for the country was indeed placated against all walls of propaganda, and thus, Americans became war-loving citizens, proud of the quality of being a true Man. This “love” for their country translated into hatred for the “abnormal” and the negro and anything “red”, namely Communism.

An unleashed horde of hate-filled citizens were kept on a leash and needed new enemies to decimate. North Korea, China and Russia became these enemies. Hate is thus a sentiment felt as a form of protection of social structure. Ethically speaking, it is unjustifiable: I cannot find any reason for a society of supposedly open-minded individuals to be able to justify hatred of any ideology it does not follow, then claim other societies are less open-minded than itself. There is no rational reason to believe that Americans are more tolerant of dissenting opinion than any other nationalist on the planet. Any other person that follows state-sanctioned or peer-sanctioned dogma will resort to dubious ethical justifications for hatred.

Social experiments are replete with human beings following the leader: When one or more humans other than ourselves in one room respond in a specific way toward an unknown social cue, the others will mimick that action. Hatred breeds hatred, and peer-sanctioned hatred is more dangerous than anything other, because if human beings are exposed to this type of hatred, they will deem it ethically justifiable, because others have succumbed to it. No one wants to step out of the group, be the outcast.

It is thus imperative that we teach not to sanction hatred of the other, but tolerance of the other for all of us. When Jean-Paul Sartre’s character in the play “Huis Clos” (No Exit) says “L’Enfer, c’est les autres”, he means that we see in the judgement of others what we see in ourselves. In a way, we seek out the hatred from the other that we feel for ourselves. When we do a specific action, that could be judged by another, this comes into account for our decision, whether we like it or not. Hatred for the Other thus becomes hatred for ourselves in the long run, and it plays in the hand of a State which would very much like for its citizenry to hate itself, so as to be more easily manipulated through fear.

Because. . . when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, . . . we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves.”

Jean-Paul Sartre during an interview preceding a recorded version of the No Exit play, in 1965.
Source: Rick On Theater

Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW-JXB2II2M

Ethically, then, if our peers find it necessary to hate the Other, we must realize that they are viewing a reflection of themselves and cannot possibly accept that reality. Not in that what we say of others speaks more about ourselves than them, but that we are ever anxiously tied in an intrinsically fraternal fashion with the Other. Fear guides our judgement and hatred is the outcome of that fear.

Hatred through Reason

It follows thus that the only way we could hope to be able to justify, on the grounds of ethics, a reason to hate something should come from Reason. What I perceive with my senses and understand with my logic provides a synthetic judgement (a posteriori) and therefore, it becomes the purest possibility of fact that I could make of it. If I can demonstrate through scientific principles that something is objectively wrong, then can I not find reason to believe there is a way for hatred to be justifiable?

The anthropologist Serge Bouchard, on the air of Radio-Canada, during his 31st March 2015 airing of “C’est Fou” detailed that even Reason was not enough to justify hatred. In seeing the inane commentary that exists on social media, he admitted wanting to “hate” and to “demolish the face” of those who say things that are so utterly ignorant, that he becomes irrational. Surely, a man of his stature and authority in the field of anthropology should be justified to strike another man for sheer stupidity?

Incorrect, says Bouchard: He is not any better, despite having a hardened shell. Should he cede to violence, he would be no better than the people he hates. Although perhaps fairly anecdotal, the instance detailed, called “Eradiquer la haîne” (Eradicate Hatred), seems to me as an indication that although educated, man is still very much capable of ceding to the basest of emotions and irrational reactions to external stimuli.

Proponents of secularism, in rise since the revolutions mentioned in this very article, have yet to find the cure for this sort of hatred. Rather, despite claims to being secular, states have not been able to rid themselves of superstition. We have never had more science in our lives, yet the people persist in believing things our prominent modern-day thinkers would consider (to use a milder term) hogwash. Alain de Botton, in a TED talk he held had this to say:

At 2:35 to 4:47

“We have secularized badly.”

“In graduation ceremonies: These lyrical claims, that education will make us into nobler and better human beings. That’s a lovely idea. […] In the early 19th century, church attendance started sliding down very, very sharply. Where are people going to find morality and guidance? […] Influential voices came up with one answer: “Culture”. Let’s look to the plays of Shakespeare, the Dialogues of Plato, the novels of Jane Austen.”

Alike in the times of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, de Botton is sensing a change in morality from the nurturing of science as a source of ultimate knowledge. The way secularism has changed the way we shape laws and civilization itself has helped create better equality, but it remains that a large number of individuals on this planet have a religious belief. A study made in the 2000s in America, polling American teachers and professors found that there is still a very large number of believers in the ranks of higher education. If “reason” was the way out of religion and therefore from hatred, should it not have convinced many spiritual believers to move away from it?

Source: http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Gross_Simmons.pdf


My contention here is that although we may be compelled to believe science is all that humans need to move away from hatred, it certainly appears not to be the case. As with all revolutions, the secular revolution of the last two centuries has reared with it an ugly monster backed with hatred and hateful, skeptical ideology. Rousseau called it “dangerous pyrrhonism” after the philosopher Pyrrho. Rather than understand the sensibility of the human mind, and the progress we have made in mental health, toward identifying neurological disorders such as ADHD, neurological differences in pattern, like Autism… We seem to have lost this love of the human perspective. The Rationalism of Descartes, although it bore with it extreme skepticism, did put the Universe as a centerpiece for human knowledge.

It is crucial for man to be at the center of our considerations, and not to see ourselves as objective observers of phenomenon. We are not machines with machine hearts, like Chaplin once said, in his moving speech on The Dictator. We think too much but feel too little. With science came better means by which we could provide for eachother, but with this technology came a widening gap between equality and sociability. Divided as we have become, hatred is distributed in copious amounts and is easy to share. We have learned to despite but have forsaken love. Much of our time is spent ridiculing but we find so little for empathy. Too easy is it to steal a person’s bank account, and yet how tragic is it that a thief would rather steal a smartphone but not a book?

In times of the past, we knew not science but at least we knew the necessity of a people bound together with tightened elbows and grit teeth. Hatred could afflict us but at least we had the support of one another. We did not need to be medicated due to constant slavery under the might of corporate rulers. In revolutions, we have always sought reason, but reason has always eluded us. It is like this image of us that we would wish to exist but prefer to spend most of our time negating that which others would like us to see of themselves.

Reason has become a tool to support hatred, but it has never once been the almighty weapon to eradicate it. On the contrary, with science we have built the hammer and the nails to emprison ourselves in. Willingly have we shut the door and hidden away the keys, as the ugliness of our own mean-spirited conscience is too much to bear. We wallow in self-hatred and yet choose to ignore that everyone is doing the same. Our world is coming down upon us, and we prefer to find pitiful excuses to apply the brakes to our own salvation. We’ve found equality but care not to support its continued existence, as with any matter in this universe, progress decays and gains made in the past soon become barriers for the future.

Humanity is condemned to success if it wishes to survive. Anything less and we shall go extinct. Hatred is the barrier that has never been truly knocked down. For with every victory of the human condition, superstition and fear have remained to shackle us. Like Plato foresaw, we are in a perpetual cycle of caves, like the underground tunnels of Dostoievsky, we are lost and found, only to be lost again. The solution appears rather simple, but we have chosen to look deep into the caves for the surface.

Nietzsche’s abyss has been looking us in the eyes all this time, and the precipice is not far, and before we know it, we will run out of caves to run back to. All our reason and all our science will not help us against this. It is only through cooperation that we shall overcome our challenges, and not by choosing pitiful agitators as leaders but by seeing ourselves as the leaders we require. Our fellow man does not need to be an obstacle to our dreams, but rather a living part of it.

Everywhere, empathy has become the solution to ailments of the world. We simply need to stop telling ourselves we are the only ones wishing for this world to be realized. Noam Chomsky, in Media Control, related to this phenomenon. Most Americans, he said, do wish for a better world, but think themselves alone in their thinking that. As such, when we have hope, we suffocate it as being mere idealists, when in reality, most of us do wish for these things to be realized.

We simply need to reach out to one another, and choose, for once in our history as a frail species, lost on the pale blue dot, to not hate and return back to the ashes that made us.



2 thoughts on “Dissertation on the Ethics of Hatred

  1. Think there might be some rose-colored glasses coming from the view of history based on the phrasing of the conclusion. Retribution or justice has been part of the human condition since the dawn of mankind (or at least recorded human history). The concept that escalation leads to no good end helped inspire arbitration and law, again, as far back as the dawn of mankind (see Code of Hammurabi, for example). The reference to slander (in writing libel) and defamation of character, that too existed during the Code of Hammurabi.

    One could argue that this is the civilized approach. The idea being, there are actions which are permitted, and others which are not (the impetus underlying ethics and politics). Some of those actions that are not permitted occur between individuals (rape, for example). When one of these actions occurs, the victim could do nothing. Or, they could take justice into their own hands. Or, they can hand the matter over to an arbiter.

    If everyone did nothing, this would be what we classify as a lawless society. Someone stole this thing, I say nothing, people keep stealing my things.

    It has been demonstrated that when people take matters into their own hands escalation is almost sure to follow. Someone stole this thing, I steal the thing back, and break the person’s leg. That person then steals it back again, breaks my leg, and my arm. And repeat.

    Enter the arbiter, whose job it is to discern guilt (a law – a codified social norm or mores – has been violated). Then, based on the spectrum of punishments allowed, which of those to place against the transgressor.

    That which is permitted is perpetuated. How do we decide what is permitted? What methods are there for determining ways to ensure certain behaviors are not perpetuated? And, how do we know whether the response is satisfactory in changing the behavior?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your conclusion here is the interrogation that I wish to push forth, but I think you strike a point with the Code of Hammurabi. That is something I had not known, so it might have helped me in the writing of this dissertation.

    Thank you for your input. 🙂


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