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Looks can kill...

Sunday, April 7, 2024
22 mins.

Hate the way you look?

by Rab Clark

While we all wait to see how Police Scotland is going to handle any instances of ‘hate crime’ at tomorrow’s football match in Glasgow, we thought it might be an idea to present some current and past thinking on ‘hate’.

As members of the Scottish public for which ‘The Hate Monster’ was specifically designed, we have to assume that our superiors know what they’re doing. They surely consulted a broad range of specialists, be they psychologists, marketing people, perhaps even lawyers and experienced police officers. Significant amounts of cash must’ve been spent. 

Reaction to the animated character and his ‘working-class’ Weegie accent has been, let’s say, ‘mixed’. The poster campaign reminded us of something and we couldn’t quite put our finger on it but a friend pointed out that it’s reminiscent of the Aids awareness campaigns back in the late 80s - doom-laden and designed to frighten. 

We read somewhere (and can’t locate it now) that ‘hate’ is unusual insofar as there is no clear facial expression it can be associated with. That’s why we took time over the selection of our image for this post - anger, fear, panic, shock…these are all identifiable in a person’s expression. But hate is different. Does that man hate someone? Certainly looks like he's had a rough night or two and he's none too happy. But does he 'hate' anyone? Does he hate trans people, black people, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, his Mum, the neighbour’s cat? Would you start believing that he hated you if he looked at you like that every day when you passed each other in the street?

And that’s why the lack of a definition - for police and public alike - is such a problem. It’s one thing to seek to change behaviour. But to do so without a clear understanding of what is being targeted just creates confusion and mistrust.

For thousands of years, all over this planet, human beings have sought to understand their own emotions. Below is a selection of thoughts from philosophical individuals and brief summaries of major religions’ take on ‘hate’. 

As a personal exercise we tried making a definition of our own but soon gave up. Just as Orwell - clinical with words though he was - could not define precisely what ‘common decency’ is, the word ‘hate’ presents a similar problem. We know what it is when we see it (and more specifically when it is performed) but this calamitous Hate Act is doomed to fail (and possibly to harm) because it assigns responsibility for identification of the ‘criminal’ on self-professed victims who can ‘see’ hate where none may be present.

Over and above all the complexities of the language and the policing and the legal ramifications and the damage being done to Scotland’s reputation, many people are angered because the whole campaign is so shoddy, childish and offensively patronising. It seems also to have decided who the ‘criminals’ are, the kind of areas they live in, their age and socio-economic background i.e. people like the man in our image.

Whether or not being categorised in this way constitutes a ‘hate crime’, the behaviour of our government and national police force has already been well-noted by the people being painted as ‘haters’ - 'those people' happens to include us and we won’t forget this shameful episode anytime soon.

‘To conclude, I will briefly mention two directions for further research. The first is psychological. I have argued that hate is a mechanism of self-affirmation that appears when our self-worth is threatened. This self-affirmative character has different functions in each type of hate and this should be examined carefully. Normative hate can contribute to reinforce societal rules. In retributive hate, the self-affirmation can have a therapeutic dimension. But in ideological and malicious hate, the self-affirmation is merely illusory and even self-deceptive. In ideological hate, the self-affirmation has a tautological and redundant character: no matter what the other does or how the other is, the self-affirmation has the function of reinforcing the existing ideology. Malicious hate can lead to a destruction of the other, but our feeling of being uplifted is unreal: we keep experiencing the target as desirable and superior to us.

The second direction for research is moral in nature. My account prepares the field to address a series of moral issues about hate which, until now, have received scant attention. Hate has been described as irrational and blind, but if the analysis provided herein is correct, this must not always be the case. Retributive and normative hate can fulfill an instrumental function for the individual and the society to which she belongs. Though I think that hate is never an appropriate response toward others who have wronged us, I want to conclude with the thought that some types of hate seem less reproachable than others.’

Ingrid Vendrell Ferran

Hate: toward a Four-Types Model | Review of Philosophy and Psychology (springer.com)

‘Though many would agree that hate speech can have destructive effects, and that there is a moral imperative on the state to cultivate something like respectful relations between its members, objections to hate speech bans abound. In a wide-ranging response to these concerns, Parekh (2012) considers (and rejects) six common objections to the prohibition of hate speech. These six objections are: (1) that the harm of hate speech, while real, is relatively minor and a small price to pay given the interest of democratic nations; (2) that bans are not the answer, but rather “better ideas” and “more speech” are; (3) that a prohibition would have a dangerous “chilling effect” and that hate speech bans are a slippery slope to all sorts of unwanted restrictions; (4) that bans give the state too much power to judge the content of speech and decide what can or cannot be said, threatening state-neutrality, skewing political debate, and infringing on individual liberty; (5) that bans are an objectionable form of paternalism or moral authoritarianism, and is incompatible with the assumption that humans are responsible and autonomous individuals and that society is made up of free and equal citizens; and finally, (6) that bans are ineffective at changing attitudes and removing the hate from the hate speaker’s heart, with the result that bans have the effect of moving extremists underground, alienating them from wider society, and in doing so rendering us ignorant of their violent potential and impotent to engage in effective de-radicalization.’

Anderson, Luvell and Michael Barnes, "Hate Speech", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2023 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2023/entries/hate-speech/>.

‘Enmity and Hatred should clearly be studied by reference to their opposites. Enmity may be produced by anger or spite or calumny. Now whereas anger arises from offences against oneself, enmity may arise even without that; we may hate people merely because of what we take to be their character. Anger is always concerned with individuals-a Callias or a Socrates-whereas hatred is directed also against classes: we all hate any thief and any informer. Moreover, anger can be cured by time; but hatred cannot. The one aims at giving pain to its object, the other at doing him harm; the angry man wants his victims to feel; the hater does not mind whether they feel or not. All painful things are felt; but the greatest evils, injustice and folly, are the least felt, since their presence causes no pain. And anger is accompanied by pain, hatred is not; the angry man feels pain, but the hater does not. Much may happen to make the angry man pity those who offend him, but the hater under no circumstances wishes to pity a man whom he has once hated: for the one would have the offenders suffer for what they have done; the other would have them cease to exist.

It is plain from all this that we can prove people to be friends or enemies; if they are not, we can make them out to be so; if they claim to be so, we can refute their claim; and if it is disputed whether an action was due to anger or to hatred, we can attribute it to whichever of these we prefer.’


The Internet Classics Archive | Rhetoric by Aristotle (mit.edu)

Thomas Aquinas viewed hatred with nuance, drawing distinctions between hating the sin and hating the sinner. In his work, Summa Theologica, he unpacks this concept.

For Aquinas, hating someone entirely – their nature and their flaws – is always sinful. True Christian love requires desiring another's good, which means hating their evil. He uses the analogy of a doctor treating a patient with cancer. The doctor doesn't hate the patient, but the cancer itself, wanting to remove it for the patient's well-being.

This distinction becomes important when dealing with sinners. We can, and even should, hate the sinful acts themselves, as they go against God's will and hinder the sinner's happiness. Aquinas cites scripture, like Jesus' words in Luke 12:26, to support this idea. However, this hatred shouldn't extend to the person themselves. We should still love their human nature, created by God, and desire their ultimate good.

Aquinas uses the term "perfect hatred" to describe this concept. It's not a hatred filled with animosity, but a hatred born from love that seeks to eliminate the evil within the person. This aligns with the concept of charity, which emphasizes love for God and neighbor.

There are subtleties, though. Aquinas acknowledges the difficulty of separating the sin from the sinner completely. However, the key takeaway is that hatred shouldn't cloud our judgment or lead us to wish ill on the person themselves. Our ultimate goal, according to Aquinas, should be to see the sinner turn away from evil and return to God's good graces.’

Freud saw hate as a fundamental human drive, intertwined with love in a concept he called "ambivalence." Here's a breakdown of his perspective:

  • The Death Drive (Thanatos):  Freud introduced the idea of an aggressive instinct, the Thanatos, which compels us towards destruction and aggression. Hate stems from this instinct, manifesting as hostility, anger, and violence.
  • Ego Development:  Freud believed hatred emerges during ego development. In the early stages, infants struggle to distinguish themselves from the external world. Anything causing frustration becomes an object of hate.
  • Narcissistic Rage:  As the ego develops, a sense of self emerges. Anything perceived as a threat to this self triggers narcissistic rage, a form of hate fueled by a need to maintain self-importance.
  • Love and Hate:  Freud didn't see love and hate as opposites, but rather as coexisting forces. We can feel love and hate for the same person, especially those closest to us (parents, siblings). This "ambivalence" stems from our complex early relationships.
  • Projection:  Freud believed we can project our own unconscious hatred onto others. For example, a person who feels aggressive might perceive others as hostile, justifying their own aggression.
  • Civilization and Hate:  Freud believed civilization relies on the repression of our aggressive instincts, channeling them into socially acceptable outlets like competition. However, this repression can lead to neurosis or erupt in war and violence.

It's important to note that Freud's theories on hate have been debated and revised.  However, they offer valuable insights into the underlying psychological forces that contribute to hatred.

While Bertrand Russell doesn't have a vast written exploration of hate, he did offer a concise and impactful perspective.  Here's a look at his view:

  • Hatred as Unwise:  Russell viewed hatred primarily as a negative force, hindering progress and fostering negativity.  In a famous 1959 interview, he proclaimed: "Love is wise, hatred is foolish."
  • Emphasis on Reason:  Russell championed reason and logic as the path to a better world.  Hatred, fueled by emotions and prejudices, clouds judgment and hinders the pursuit of truth and understanding.
  • The Importance of Tolerance:  Living in an interconnected world demands tolerance. We will encounter differing views and beliefs.  Russell believed learning to coexist with these differences, even if disliked, is crucial.  Hatred only escalates conflicts.
  • Focus on the Positive:  Russell emphasized the importance of love and knowledge for a good life.  He likely saw hatred as a distraction from these pursuits.  By focusing on understanding and love, we can build a better future.
  • Context Matters:  While generally critical of hatred, Russell might have acknowledged its role in opposing injustice or oppression.  However, a measured and reasoned response would likely be his preferred approach over blind hatred.

It's important to understand that Russell's view is brief but powerful.  He focused on the detrimental effects of hatred on both individuals and society, advocating for a more rational and loving approach to navigate the complexities of the world.

Carl Jung didn't directly explore "hate" as a single concept, but his work on the psyche offers insights into its origins and potential transformations. Here's a look at how Jungian psychology sheds light on hatred:

  • The Shadow:  Jung proposed the Shadow as an unconscious part of the personality containing repressed desires, emotions, and instincts. Hatred can stem from the Shadow, representing negative emotions we haven't acknowledged or integrated.
  • Projection:  A defense mechanism where we project our disowned Shadow qualities onto others. We might see someone as hateful because it reflects a part of ourselves we haven't confronted. This can fuel conflict and misunderstandings.
  • The Persona:  The public mask we wear, the Persona can also contribute to hatred. When someone's rigid Persona is threatened, they might react with hostility to defend their carefully constructed image.
  • The Complexes:  Emotionally charged constellations of thoughts, feelings, and memories can manifest as hatred. Unresolved childhood experiences or trauma can lead to complexes that distort our perception and fuel hatred towards certain people or groups.
  • Integration and Individuation:  Jung believed the path to wholeness lies in integrating the Shadow and its contents. Facing the potential for hatred within ourselves allows us to understand and transform it. This process, called individuation, leads to a more mature and compassionate perspective.
  • The Collective Shadow:  Jung theorized a collective unconscious containing the dark side of humanity's experiences. This collective Shadow can manifest as widespread hatred and prejudice directed at certain groups.

Overall, Jung viewed hatred as a complex emotion with psychological roots. By understanding its origins in the Shadow, projections, or unresolved complexes, we can potentially transform hatred through self-reflection and  individuation.  This can lead to a more peaceful and integrated individual and society.

Jean-Paul Sartre doesn't directly explore "hate" as a singular concept, but his existentialist philosophy sheds light on its potential sources and complexities:

  • Freedom and Choice:  Sartre emphasizes human freedom. We are "condemned to be free," meaning we create our own essence through choices.  Hate, then, can be a chosen response to the world, a way of defining oneself in opposition to others.
  • The "Other":  Sartre's concept of "the Other" refers to anyone outside oneself. The Other can be a source of frustration, as their existence limits our own freedom. This frustration, if not addressed, could potentially turn into resentment or even hatred.
  • "Bad Faith":  When we deny our freedom and responsibility, Sartre calls it "bad faith." We may blame others or external forces for our choices. This inauthenticity can lead to resentment and a sense of powerlessness, potentially fueling hatred.
  • Existential Angst:  The overwhelming freedom and responsibility we face can lead to existential angst, a feeling of anxiety and dread. In attempting to cope with this angst, someone might resort to scapegoating or hating others, creating a false sense of control.
  • Collective Hatred:  Sartre explored how societal structures and ideologies can foster group hatred. He criticized anti-Semitism, for instance, as a way for people to define themselves through hating a specific group.

Sartre doesn't offer a simple solution for hate. However, his philosophy suggests that acknowledging our freedom, taking responsibility for our choices, and engaging authentically with "the Other"  are crucial steps.  By confronting our anxieties and facing our existence head-on, we can potentially overcome the urge to define ourselves through hatred.

Niccolò Machiavelli, the author of "The Prince,"  didn't directly praise hatred. However, his focus on effective leadership in a dangerous world implies a pragmatic view of its potential uses and drawbacks for a ruler. Here's a breakdown:

  • Fear vs. Hate:  Machiavelli emphasized fear as a more effective tool for a ruler than love.  However, he might acknowledge that hatred directed towards a ruler by the people can be incredibly dangerous, leading to rebellion or assassination.
  • Maintaining Power:  The Prince's primary goal is to maintain power. If arousing hatred in a specific group secures the ruler's position, Machiavelli might see it as a strategic, albeit risky, move.
  • Controlling the Hatred:  Ideally, the ruler would avoid inciting widespread hatred. But if hatred is inevitable, Machiavelli might advocate for channeling it outwards, towards a common enemy, to unify the population behind the ruler.
  • The Importance of Reputation:  Machiavelli stressed the importance of a ruler's reputation. Unnecessary cruelty or acts perceived as hateful could damage that reputation and undermine authority.
  • The Dangers of Hatred:  While Machiavelli might acknowledge the potential usefulness of hatred, he wouldn't ignore its dangers. Uncontrolled hatred can lead to chaos and instability, hindering the ruler's goals.

Overall, Machiavelli wouldn't promote hatred as a desirable emotion.  However, he might see it as a potential tool or consequence of ruling, something a leader needs to be aware of and manage strategically.  His focus lies on achieving and maintaining power, and hatred might be a factor to consider in that pursuit, even if a risky one.

In Buddhist philosophy, hatred (dvesha) is considered one of the "three poisons" alongside greed (raga) and delusion (moha). These are seen as the root causes of suffering. Here's how Buddhism approaches hatred:

  • The Cycle of Suffering:  Hatred is viewed as fueling the cycle of suffering (dukkha). When we hold onto hatred, it consumes us, leading to anger, resentment, and negativity. This in turn creates more suffering for ourselves and potentially for others.
  • Non-attachment:  Buddhism emphasizes non-attachment to desires and aversions. This includes letting go of hatred. By detaching from negative emotions, we can find inner peace and break the cycle of suffering.
  • Understanding the Roots of Hatred:  The Buddha taught that hatred arises from distorted perceptions and clinging to impermanent things. By understanding the impermanent nature of reality, we can see that clinging to hatred is futile.
  • Compassion and Loving-kindness:  The antidote to hatred is compassion (karuna) and loving-kindness (metta). Cultivating these qualities allows us to see others with empathy and understanding, reducing the space for hatred to grow.
  • Meditation:  Meditation practices play a crucial role in transforming hatred. By observing our thoughts and emotions without judgment, we can learn to let go of negativity, including hatred.
  • The Story of Angulimala:  A famous Buddhist story tells of Angulimala, a notorious serial killer. The Buddha approached him with unwavering compassion, ultimately leading Angulimala to renounce violence and hatred. This story exemplifies the power of compassion to overcome negativity.

Buddhism doesn't advocate for suppressing hatred. Instead, it encourages understanding its roots and transforming it through practices like meditation and cultivating loving-kindness. The goal is not to eliminate hatred entirely but to prevent it from controlling our thoughts and actions, leading to a more peaceful and compassionate way of life.

Judaism views hatred with strong disapproval, emphasizing love and compassion as core values. Here's a breakdown of its perspective:

  • Love Thy Neighbor:  The Torah (Hebrew Bible) commands "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). This principle extends to all people, not just fellow Jews. Hatred directly contradicts this central teaching.
  • Hatred of the Heart vs. Action:  While hatred itself is a sin, some interpretations differentiate between internal feelings and outward actions.  Rabbinic teachings condemn harboring hatred in your heart, but some acknowledge that anger or frustration might arise in certain situations.
  • Focus on the Sin, Not the Sinner:  Judaism teaches to hate the action, not the person. We should criticize someone's wrongdoing, but still strive for their betterment. This aligns with the concept of Musar, Jewish ethical teachings that emphasize character development.
  • The Power of Forgiveness:  Judaism emphasizes forgiveness as a key to overcoming hatred. Holding onto resentment only harms the person holding it. Forgiveness allows for reconciliation and healing.
  • Historical Context:  Judaism has a long history of facing persecution and hatred. This experience has instilled a strong value on peace and understanding. The concept of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, emphasizes creating a just and compassionate society.

Here are some examples within Judaism:

  • The story of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis): Despite being betrayed by his brothers, Joseph eventually forgives them, exemplifying overcoming hatred.
  • The daily prayer "Aleinu" asks for God to "plant brotherly love, friendship and peace among us."

Overall, Judaism views hatred as a destructive force that goes against core values of love, compassion, and forgiveness.  It emphasizes introspection, focusing on our own actions and intentions, while striving to create a more peaceful world through understanding and reconciliation.


  • Disapproval of Hatred: Islam strongly disapproves of hatred (al- بغضاء - al- بغضاء  - al-bughd), considering it a destructive emotion that harms both the hater and the hated. It's seen as an obstacle to achieving inner peace and living a life pleasing to God (Allah).
  • Emphasis on Love and Mercy: Islamic teachings emphasize love (mahabbah) and mercy (rahmah) as core values. The Quran mentions God's love for humanity (Quran 3:159) and calls believers to show love and compassion towards others (Quran 2:195).
  • Hating the Sin, Loving the Sinner:  Similar to Judaism and Christianity, Islamic philosophy distinguishes between hating the action and hating the person. One can condemn a sinful act while still maintaining compassion and hope for the person's repentance and betterment.
  • Justice and Forgiveness:  While hatred is discouraged, Islamic principles like justice (adl) and forgiveness (maghfirah) are important.  A person who has been wronged can seek justice, but forgiveness is ultimately encouraged, allowing for healing and reconciliation.
  • The Importance of Intention:  Islamic teachings emphasize the importance of intention (niyyah) behind actions.  Even anger, which can lead to hatred, might be seen differently depending on the intention. Righteous anger against injustice is viewed differently from hateful anger fueled by pride or prejudice.
  • Sufi Teachings:  Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, emphasizes love and purification of the heart. Sufi practices aim to cultivate inner peace and overcome negative emotions like hatred.

Examples in Islamic Tradition:

  • The Quran: It recounts stories of prophets like Joseph (Yusuf) showing forgiveness to their enemies, emphasizing overcoming hatred.
  • The Hadith: The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said, "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself" (Sahih al-Bukhari).

Overall, Islamic philosophy views hatred as a negative emotion that hinders personal growth and social harmony. It emphasizes love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, and the importance of intention to cultivate a more peaceful and compassionate existence.

Ancient Egyptians didn't have a single, all-encompassing concept for "hate" like we do today. However, their beliefs and practices offer insights into how they viewed similar emotions:

  • Maintaining Harmony (Ma'at): The central concept of Ma'at emphasized order, balance, and justice. Hatred, as a disruptive emotion, would have been seen as a violation of Ma'at.
  • Isfet vs. Isfetlessness: Isfet represented the ideal state of order and truth, while Isfetlessness embodied chaos and injustice. Emotions like hatred, associated with disruption, would have fallen under Isfetlessness.
  • The Importance of the Heart (Ib): The Egyptians believed the heart (Ib) was the center of emotions and morality.  Excessive negative emotions like hatred could potentially corrupt the heart and lead to negative consequences in the afterlife.
  • "Execration Texts":  These texts functioned as curses against enemies.  While not exactly "hate," they demonstrate a willingness to express negativity towards those who disrupted Ma'at.
  • The "Negative Confession":  In this funerary ritual, the deceased declares their innocence of various transgressions, including harboring malice or hatred towards others. This suggests a desire to avoid such emotions.

Here's how these concepts might translate to the concept of hate:

  1. Hatred as Opposed to Ma'at:  Excessive hatred disrupts the social and cosmic order. A pharaoh might express animosity towards enemies, but it would likely be framed as maintaining Ma'at by subduing forces of chaos.
  2. Hatred as a Corrupting Force:  Hatred could be seen as tainting the heart, potentially hindering a successful journey to the afterlife.

Overall, while Egyptians didn't have a direct equivalent to "hate," their emphasis on order, balance, and a pure heart suggests they viewed emotions like hatred with disapproval as disruptive and potentially harmful forces.

In Hinduism, hatred (dvesha) is seen as a negative emotion that hinders spiritual progress and creates suffering. Here's a look at how Hindu philosophy approaches hate:

  • The Three Gunas:  Hinduism posits three gunas, qualities that influence our nature and actions. Tamas, the guna of inertia and negativity, fuels hatred. Cultivating sattva (goodness) and rajas (passion) in a balanced way is seen as key to overcoming negative emotions.
  • The Cycle of Samsara:  Hatred is believed to perpetuate the cycle of rebirth (samsara) filled with suffering (dukkha). When we cling to hatred, it creates negative karma that binds us to this cycle.
  • Ahimsa (Non-violence):  A core principle in Hinduism, Ahimsa emphasizes non-violence in thought, word, and action.  This extends beyond physical harm; hatred itself is seen as a form of violence against oneself and others.
  • Atman (Self) and Brahman (Ultimate Reality):  According to Hinduism, the Atman (individual self) is ultimately one with Brahman (ultimate reality). Hatred directed outwards is ultimately hatred directed at a part of oneself, hindering the realization of this unity.
  • Forgiveness and Compassion:  Hindu teachings emphasize forgiveness (kshama) and compassion (karuna) as antidotes to hatred. By letting go of resentment and cultivating compassion, one breaks free from the cycle of negativity.
  • The Bhagavad Gita:  This sacred text encourages warriors to fight with a sense of duty, not hatred, for the greater good. It emphasizes detachment from outcomes, which can help overcome hatred arising from victory or defeat.
  • Bhakti Yoga (Path of Devotion):  This path focuses on cultivating love and devotion for a chosen deity. By channeling one's energy into love, there's less room for hatred to flourish.

Overall, Hinduism views hatred as a barrier to spiritual liberation.  By cultivating positive qualities, practicing non-violence, forgiveness, and compassion, and ultimately realizing the interconnectedness of all beings, Hindus aim to overcome hatred and achieve spiritual liberation.

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