Friday, April 17, 2020

Misology - a hatred of argument, reasoning, or enlightenment

"Misology: a hatred of argument, reasoning, or enlightenment." That's Merriam-Webster's definition. Here's the definition in Dagobert Runes' Dictionary of Philosophy (1942): "Misology: (Gr. miseo: to hate; logia: proposition) A contempt for logic." In the Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology (1902), James Mark Baldwin gives this definition:
Misology [Gr. ...] : Ger. Misologie ; Fr. misologie ; Ital.misologia. Hatred and despair of reason.Sometimes applied to intellectual PESSIMISM. (v. 2, The Macmillan Company, 1902)
Closely related is "misologia: an aversion to speaking or arguing" (APA Dictionary of Psychology).

The Wikipedia entry for misology provides an interesting history of the word. It notes the occurrence of the ancient Greek μισολογία in Plato's Phaedo (89d). Wikipedia also identifies Kant's use of the German "Misologie" in the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (395.32, 1785), where Kant defines it as a 'hatred of reason.' According to Henry Hitchings, Samuel Taylor Coleridge based his use of "misology" on Kant's misologie.

Webster's pegs the introduction of the English "misology" as being "circa 1834." The online version of Webster's does not identify the source. I believe the author of the Webster's entry had in mind the appearance of "misology" in an article in The Quarterly Review by Henry Nelson Coleridge, nephew and son-in-law of the great romantic poet. ("The Poetical works of S. T. Coleridge," The Quarterly Review, No. 103 [1834], p. 21) The article was published anonymously in 1834, but here is a cleaner copy of it with H. N. Coleridge identified as its author.

Henry Coleridge used "misology" while quoting his famous uncle's assessment of Goethe's epic poem: "The intended theme of the Faust is the consequences of a misology, or hatred and depreciation of knowledge, caused by an originally intense thirst for knowledge baffled." (Ibid.) Henry C. seems to have based the quotation on some written record of his uncle's 'table talk', since the same passage appears in the "Table Talk" entry for February 16, 1833. Apparently, S. T. Coleridge also applied "misology" to some religious sects in his book annotations.

In his 1992 article, James McKusick counts "misology" among Coleridge's "merely bizarre" coinages. (James C. McKusick, "'Living Words': Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Genesis of the 'OED' Modern Philology, Vol. 90 [1992]: 1-45, at 20) In fact, though, Coleridge was not the first author to use the word in English.

I found an earlier use of "misology" in John Richardson's 1819 translation of Kant's Logik (1800): Logic from the German of Emmanuel Kant. (London: Printed for W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1819) Here is an excerpt from Richardson's translation:
Who hates science, but does not love wisdom the less on that account, is named a misologist. Misology commonly arises from a want of scientific knowledge, and from a certain sort of vanity therewith conjoined. And sometimes those, who at first cultivated the sciences with great diligence and success, but in the end found no satisfaction in all their knowledge, fall into the fault of misology. (p. 32)
I have consulted Thomas Taylor's 1793 translation of Plato's Phaedo (esp. 89d2-3), and did not find any use there of "misology." Rather than using a single word for Plato's term, Taylor uses the phrase "hatred of reason." (Four Dialogues of Plato: The Cratylus, Phædo, Parmenides and Timæus, [1793], pp. 197-8) It may be, though, that some earlier translator of Plato's work into English used "misology."

Professor Mark Mercer has a pdf entitled "In Defence of Misology."


Raginald Mars said...

as a Biologist in my view it is about territory, trespassing. Strangely, Intellectuals claiming almost identical views, like Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky, Jordan Peterson... immediately attack each other for Trespassing and shooting at each other with bullet Words. Territory and identity. When someone trespasses, it is an attack on Identity. Almost a Murder attack. It takes long Impulse Control Training to recognize this institution of Attacking Trespassers and at least reduce it- temporarily. In Science we try to avoid this with open source publishing. Those still feuding are weak personalities trying to catch the Gold Bug - which keeps running and hiding the more you want to catch it...

praymont said...

Thank you, Raginald Mars, for your insight. People do sometimes use words as weapons, and that's when they seem least interested in a genuine, cooperative exchange of ideas.