Misanthropy is a general dislike of the human race. It is not dislike of individual human beings, but rather dislike of the features shared by all humanity throughout place and time, including oneself. Low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide, are possible consequences of strongly-held misanthropy.

It 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, as a critical or darkly humorous outlook toward mankind may be mistaken for genuine misanthropy. Jonathan Swift is widely accused of misanthropy (see A Tale of a Tub and, most especially, Book IV of Gulliver's Travels).

Another example of mistaken misanthropy is Jean-Paul Sartre's quote "Hell is other people." On the face of it, this looks deeply misanthropic, but actually Sartre was making an observation about the tendency of human beings to lack self-knowledge. We tend to project our worst fears, and our most deeply disliked personal characteristics, onto other people, rather than look inside and face them within ourselves. Thus, when we look at other people we often see the worst of what is in our own personality.

It is important to distinguish between pessimism and misanthropy. Immanuel Kant said that "Of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made," and yet this was not an expression of the uselessness of mankind itself. Similarly, Samuel Beckett once remarked that "Hell must be like... reminiscing about the good old days when we wished we were dead" — a statement that may, perhaps, be seen as utterly bleak and hopeless, but not as anti-human or expressive of any hatred of mankind.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, on the other hand, was almost certainly as famously misanthropic as his reputation. He wrote that "human existence must be a kind of error."

Some have proposed elevating misanthropy to a protoscience of misanthropology.

See also