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Maria_AMDG

Misanthropy a la Jonathan Swift

[quote]I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities, and all my love is toward individuals: for instance, I hate the tribe of lawyers, but I love Counsellor Such-a-one, and Judge Such-a-one: so with physicians—I will not speak of my own trade—soldiers, English, Scotch, French, and the rest. But principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth. This is the system upon which I have governed myself many years, but do not tell, and so I shall go on till I have done with them. I have got materials toward a treatise, proving the falsity of that definition animal rationale, and to show it would be only rationis capax.[/b][/quote]

Is it possible to hate mankind as a whole while loving each person as an individual? Is it moral?

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[quote]Is it possible to hate mankind as a whole while loving each person as an individual? Is it moral?[/b][/quote]

I doubt its even possible. The two things are contradictory, and equivocating. "I don't like lawyers, but I do like Peter, even though he's a lawyer." Either one statement is wrong or the other is wrong.

It is possible to hate aspects of humanity (i.e. sin), but it sounds like Swift hates the "animal rationale", whatever that is, and prefers individuals instead (probably civilized, in contrast to the "animal rationale").

Either Swift is illogical, or he's making a deeper point using an allegedly false premise, I think.

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Animal rationale was Aristotle's idea of man, it literally means rational animal—the only living being that uses reason. Rationis capax means capable of reason; Swift is saying that men have the ability to use reason, but do not always exercise it. (I guess I should have cut the quote off before that though, it's not even vital to the point.)

I don't know that it's impossible because the group and the individual are distinct. I can hate a clique but love (in the Christian sense) each person associated with it.

Also this is one instance where Swift is not speaking rhetorically, it's from a private letter to Alexander Pope.

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[quote]I don't know that it's impossible because the group and the individual are distinct. I can hate a clique but love (in the Christian sense) each person associated with it.[/b][/quote]

That may be true, but was Swift a Christian? More than that, hating a clique is a little different than hating all of mankind, then turning around and saying you love everyone individually. The two still seem mutually opposed.

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Yes, Swift was a Christian and even a minister, but is it relevant?

It's the same principle, only extending it to a larger grouping. If it works for a division of humanity than why doesn't it work for the aggregate?

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