November 23, 2011

Hatred has two opposites: love and indifference

Philosophy

hatred has two opposites love and indifference - The Alessandro Benetton blog

Our campaign, UNHATE, which has provoked many comments of all kinds, also presents some philosophical questions. For example, what is the opposite of hate? Love is the first answer that comes to mind. But are we sure? What if it were indifference? What if it were both?

According to Günther Anders, one of the founders of philosophical anthropology, who died in 1992, feelings change over time. “It would be naïve,” he said, “to think that a man remains emotionally constant. Emotions depend on current historic situations, and especially on technology.” Anders was obsessed with technological evolution, and in particular, he wondered what would remain of a man, of his emotions, once he realized the power of technology. He believed that man would suffer from what you might call a Promethean sense of shame, in other words, he would feel small and outdated standing before the world that he himself had created, and which had now overtaken him in efficiency and speed. And machines, in his view, had no need of useless emotions, which would risk interfering with the certainty of their progress.

The Austrian thinker’s conclusions are provocative: “Our undoing will lie in this lack of hatred. The end of hatred could lead to the end of humanity.” An invitation to hate? A lack of the ethic of responsibility? Indeed not: Anders’ contentious target is not love, but indifference. While love and hate are bound together by their opposition, indifference is the outsider that breaks the ties between the two: hatred is the negative, love is the positive, and indifference is the neutral element.

Anders tells us that the greatest danger for man in this technological era is that indifference will set in, weakening all the emotions, and becoming the opposite of every concept. Thus hatred has two opposites, much as this may challenge the laws of logic: the first opposite is indifference, in comparison with which hatred is something positive, due to the fact that it still expresses man’s vitality, the good functioning of his emotional engine; the second opposite is love, compared with which hatred is the negative element. Nonetheless, if hatred disappears to be replaced by indifference, love also disappears, or at the very least it is weakened.

Anders’ appeal for hatred is thus a strong appeal for love as an emotion that expresses man’s vitality. Not love as a utopian project, a word that looks good on everyone’s lips, but rather, love as an emotion that must demonstrate its strength against its weaker, more treacherous opponent, indifference.

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