Ask a Philosopher: What is the Purpose of Hatred?


What Do You Think?

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November 6, 2022

3 min read


We asked young people what their most burning philosophical questions are. In order to answer them, we went and asked some of today’s leading thinkers.

Q: What is the purpose of hatred in the world?
Michelle, 32

James Tartaglia, Keele University, UK

I don’t think there is any purpose to hatred, in the sense that I don’t think people were designed to hate each other in order to achieve some purpose, such as to entertain the Greek gods. I think hatred arises naturally because of the way people treat each other. Just imagine: raiders come into my village, they steal my things, they burn down my house – I’m naturally going to hate them, I wouldn’t be able to help it. The great religions and secular moral philosophies of this world have tried to find ways to avoid, or at least moderate, this kind of natural reaction, and that’s because of the great harm that hatred can cause.

Matt Schneeweiss, The Stoic Jew Podcast

King Solomon writes, “There is a time to love and a time to hate” (Ecclesiastes 3:8) in the midst of a bunch of similar examples (e.g. “there is a time to cry and a time to laugh,” “there is a time to hug, and a time to distance oneself from hugging”). According to Judaism, there is no such thing as a “good” emotion or a “bad” emotion; rather, it all depends on how the emotion is channeled, and toward what end.

Hatred is bad when it leads to treating other human beings as though there were NOT created in God’s image (as truth-seeking intellects), or when it leads us to withhold the kindness, justice, and righteousness that is due to them. But when individual people or groups embrace values that stand in opposition to the aforementioned ideals, thereby jeopardizing the peace and harmony of their fellow human beings, then it is permissible – indeed, praiseworthy – to channel our hatred towards the conduct of these individuals with the goal of either stopping them or returning them to the good.

Miriam Kosman, Author

If you don’t hate anything, you might as well be a potato. Life matters and if I can’t muster up the passion to hate, chances are I probably won’t love much either.

Paul Franks, Yale University

Let’s say that hatred is more than mere dislike or anger; it is the will to annihilate that which is hated. So understood, I would argue that hatred for people has no purpose whatsoever. But hatred for certain kinds of actions and attitudes has a purpose insofar as those actions and attitudes should be annihilated. Hatred for people is an attitude that I hate.

Grant Maxwell, Author

Anger is an archetypal power or cosmic force that, like all the emotions, demands to be expressed one way or another. For the seventeenth-century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, the task of human life is to express these “affects,” the bodily feelings that motivate all human activity, in their higher registers. So while anger can be expressed as mere hatred, bigotry, and dominance, this is a reactive and resentful expression of what the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze calls the “god of anger,” which can be expressed actively and creatively through art, political activity, sports, and so on.

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