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Hate: toward a Four-Types Model


Drawing on insights found in both philosophy and psychology, this paper offers an analysis of hate and distinguishes between its main types. I argue that hate is a sentiment, i.e., a form to regard the other as evil which on certain occasions can be acutely felt. On the basis of this definition, I develop a typology which, unlike the main typologies in philosophy and psychology, does not explain hate in terms of patterns of other affective states. By examining the developmental history and intentional structure of hate, I obtain two variables: the replaceability/irreplaceability of the target and the determinacy/indeterminacy of the focus of concern. The combination of these variables generates the four-types model of hate, according to which hate comes in the following kinds: normative, ideological, retributive, and malicious.


Consider the following instances of hate. Imagine that Tom hates people who lie for breaking social trust. Now, imagine that Tom hates every foreigner living in his country for endangering ethnic homogeneity. Or imagine that Tom hates John for having severely attacked and injured him. Finally, imagine Tom hating Max for being a better philosopher than him. Are these affective attitudes of the same kind? My goal in this paper is to offer a qualified answer to this question. In particular, my aim is to analyze hate and distinguish between its main types. Surprisingly, despite the increasing number of philosophical and psychological publications devoted to hate, there have been only a few attempts to elaborate a typology. Certainly, some philosophical accounts presuppose that hate comes in different kinds (Murphy 2016; Schmid 2020; Salice 2020), while others work with the widespread distinction between person- and group-focused hate. Yet, excepting Hampton’s short but suggestive typology (Hampton 1988), philosophy has contributed little to the issue. In psychology, besides Halperin’s (2008) distinction between hate as emotion and hate as a sentiment, only Sternberg (2005) and Sternberg and Sternberg (2008) have elaborated an accurate typology of hate. Against this backdrop, in this paper, I will develop a typology which draws on insights gleaned from both disciplines.

My analysis is based on the idea that hate is a sentiment. This idea might sound somewhat outdated at first, but it has a long and well-established pedigree both philosophically (Broad 1954; Pfänder 1913) and psychologically (Allport 1954; Shand 1914). Moreover, with this term I try to capture certain features of hate which do not fit into the paradigm of what we today call emotions. More specifically, I will argue that hate is a long-lasting form to regard the other as evil which on certain occasions can be acutely felt. On the basis of this definition, I will develop a typology which, in contrast to the two main typologies in philosophy and psychology mentioned above, does not explain hate in terms of patterns of other affective states, but rather in terms of how the subject relates to its target. To develop my typology, I will focus on two aspects of hate as sentiment. First, hate results from a process of sedimentation in which cognitive and affective states have taken part. Second, hate exhibits a specific intentional structure which consists in presenting the other in her totality as evil. By focusing on the developmental history and intentional structure of hate, I will obtain two variables: the replaceability/irreplaceability of the target; and the determinacy/indeterminacy of the focus of concern. The combination of these variables will generate what I call the “four-types model of hate,” according to which hate comes in the following kinds: normative, ideological, retributive, and malicious.

The paper proceeds as follows. In section 2, I provide a definition of hate as a sentiment. In section 3, I discuss Hampton’s and Sternberg and Sternberg’s typologies and present arguments against them. In section 4, I examine the developmental history of hate and identify significant cognitive and affective sources. In section 5, I focus on the intentional structure of hate and analyze its target, focus, and the attribution of evil. Section 6 builds on the results of the two preceding sections and sets out two variables for a typology. In section 7, I present the four-types model of hate. I conclude by noting two key implications of my typology for future research.

Hate as a Sentiment

There is strong disagreement about the nature of hate. In philosophy, the camps are currently divided between those who consider hate as an emotion (Ben-ze’ev 2018; Elster 1999; Landweer 2020; Steinbock 2019; Szanto 2020) and those who regard it as a sentiment (Deonna and Teroni 2012; Fuchs 2021). For a third group, mainly comprised of psychologists, hate can come in both configurations (Halperin 2008; Halperin et al. 2012; Fischer et al. 2018; and suggested by Salice 2020).Footnote 1 In this section, I will defend the view that hate is a sentiment. Given that the discussion has both terminological and substantial aspects (not all authors define emotions and sentiments in the same terms), I will begin by presenting my view on sentiments at work in this paper.

The standard view in philosophy (Ben-ze’ev 2000; Broad 1954) and psychology (Frijda et al. 1991; Shand 1914) explains the difference between sentiments and emotions in terms of duration. Proponents of the standard view assume that emotions are occurrent affective states of short duration, while sentiments are dispositions to experience certain types of emotions toward a common object. For these authors, hate “is neither a special emotion nor a blend of emotions but rather a tendency to emote in a number of ways to a number of situations involving the object of hatred” (Royzman et al. 2005, p. 6). In short, hate exists only as a disposition to experience certain emotions.

The view on sentiments endorsed in this paper differs from the standard view in substantial respects. Taking inspiration from early philosophical literature developed mainly by Pfänder (1913/1916), I will establish the difference between emotions and sentiments in terms of distinctive intentional structures, rather than in terms of duration.Footnote 2 Emotions and sentiments exhibit distinctive forms of affective intentionality. Emotions such as joy or sadness are pleasant or unpleasant responses to certain properties of the object. In contrast, sentiments (Gesinnungen), whose paradigmatic cases are love and hate, contempt and admiration, benevolence and malevolence, exhibit a distinct affective orientation toward their target, which Pfänder describes metaphorically as “bridging the gap” between subject and object, showing a “centrifugal” direction toward their targets, and “streaming” from subjects toward objects (Pfänder 1913, pp. 332–335).

Elaborating on this view and transposing its key insights into contemporary terms, emotions and sentiments can be characterized as follows. Both are directed toward an intentional object (things, situations, animals, persons, etc.) which is presented to our mind via a cognitive state (mainly a perception, imagining, memory or belief) (directedness). And both present their intentional objects as having specific evaluative properties (evaluative presentation). Joy (emotion) as well as love (sentiment) are directed at something/someone which is presented as having positive qualities.Footnote 3

Despite these commonalities there are significant differences between both states. First, regarding their directedness, emotions respond to certain features of the object (e.g., joy is a response toward a positive change in our environment). In contrast, sentiments do not respond to a feature of the target, but are forms of regarding the other in her totality (e.g., love targets the core of the other person and not simply an aspect of her)Footnote 4.

Second, as far as their evaluative nature is concerned, emotions answer to evaluative properties of the object (e.g., my fear responds to a danger), while sentiments are responsible for presenting the target under a certain evaluative light (e.g., my love makes the other appear as lovable). Moreover, while the evaluative properties to which emotions respond are specific in their nature (thick values) (e.g., fear responds to the dangerous), the evaluative properties that we attribute to the target of a sentiment are determinable in manifold ways (thin values). Being “lovable” might be determined in terms of being attractive, charming, tender, etc. (similarly, being “admirable,” which is the evaluative light associated with the sentiment of admiration, might be determined in terms of being beautiful, elegant, intelligent, courageous, etc.). Finally, sentiments involve an active search for evaluative properties in the objects they target.

These differences offer a powerful tool to shed light on the nature of hate. In fact, hate fulfills the criteria typical of sentiments. To begin with, hate is not a response to specific traits exhibited by its target, but a form of regarding the other in her totality.Footnote 5 Hate has a globalizing nature and as such it is not limited to some of the target’s traits. The claim that we love the other but we hate some of her traits entails an improper use of the term hate (e.g., in terms of “dislike”).Footnote 6 Hate implies a global perception of the other. Even those forms of hate that arise as a reaction to an inflicted damage or offense (see section 7) and which share certain features with the reactive attitudes target the other as a whole and not just some of her features.

Second, hate is not simply a response to negative properties of the target because we can hate persons with positive qualities and we can hate them precisely for having such positive qualities (e.g., we can hate the other for being more intelligent or more beautiful than us). Furthermore, the perception of a negative property in the other does not necessarily elicit hate. We can respond to negative properties with fear, disgust, anger, or even with positive emotions such as compassion. Rather than responding to specific properties, hate is a form to present the other under a certain evaluative light. In particular, hate presents the other as being evil and as such deserving of our hate (as being hateworthy or odious). The property of being evil might be determined in many different directions: we might find evil what is morally disgusting, what make us fear for our life, what is despicable, etc. Finally, hate involves an active search for negative qualities in the other. We want to “discover” disvalues in the hated target (Scheler 1973; Kolnai 2007; Ortega y Gasset 1988).Footnote 7

As noted, the view of sentiments endorsed here traces the distinction from the emotions in terms of distinct forms of intentionality. In my proposed account, the distinction between emotions and sentiments does not overlap with the distinction between occurrent and dispositional mental states. In fact, emotions might occur as mental episodes (e.g., in seeing my neighbor’s car, I experience a pang of envy), but they can also exist as dispositions and make us prone to experience certain emotions (e.g., my dispositional envy might prompt me to experience anger, indignation, etc. against my neighbor). Sentiments might exist as dispositions, but they might also be acutely felt. In its dispositional form, hate makes me prone to feel certain emotions such as anger, indignation, etc., but hate can also be felt as an occurrent mental state (e.g., I can have an acute experience of hate in the presence of the hated target).Footnote 8 Yet, unlike emotions which can be purely episodic, episodic sentiments are always embedded in a more enduring disposition. Thus, though duration is not a defining feature of sentiments, sentiments are always long-term states which exist as dispositions and which on certain occasions can be acutely felt. In short, there is no purely episodic hate. Every acute episode of hate presupposes hate as enduring long-term state.Footnote 9

The view I propose here outperforms the standard view according to which hate exists only as a disposition to elicit emotions.Footnote 10 First, while the rival view has to explain the phenomenology of hate in terms of the other affective states that hate makes us predisposed to experience (e.g., as anger, indignation, etc.), in my model when hate is episodically experienced, it has a specific phenomenology. There is something that it is like to feel hate, just as there is something that it is like to feel shame, envy or disgust.

Second, in my model, emotions can be enduring dispositional states. The rival view assimilates enduring emotions to sentiments. However, as I have shown, there are structural differences between both states which render this assimilation impossible. While in terms of duration, an abiding envy (emotion) and hate (sentiment) do not differ from one another, there remain crucial differences as to their respective intentional structures: Envy is a response to a perceived value, while hate does not respond to an evaluative property, but is a form of regard.

Finally, my view is compatible with the view put forward by Halperin (2008) and Halperin et al. (2012), according to which there is empirical evidence to distinguish between immediate/strong hate as a “burning” emotion that occurs in response to significant events and chronic/mild hate as a stable sentiment that involves cognitions. It is also compatible with Ben-ze’ev’s (2018) claim according to which hate can be an acute, extended, or enduring state (though I disagree with him regarding the existence of purely episodic hate which is not embedded in a long-term state). Despite differences in the terminology used, these accounts offer further support for the proposed model, according to which hate on certain occasions can be acutely felt and has its own phenomenology.

I will develop my typology on the basis of this understanding of hate. In particular, I will examine its developmental history and its distinctive form of affective orientation toward its target with the aim of obtaining criteria to distinguish between types. Before turning to this task, let us review and discuss the main existing typologies in philosophy and psychology, since I will present my typology as a more nuanced alternative to those currently available.

Pattern Typologies of Hate

The philosophical and psychological typologies developed by Hampton (1988), Sternberg (2005), and Sternberg and Sternberg (2008) assume that the term hate does not describe a homogeneous state, but rather various negative attitudes or combinations of negative attitudes. More specifically, Hampton describes hate in terms of other emotions, while Sternberg and Sternberg & Sternberg argue that hate has other emotions as components. Both typologies are what I call “pattern typologies” because they explain hate in terms of “patterns” of feelings and desires/actions corresponding to other affective states. Both are mainly focused on the phenomenology or the “what it is like” of hate.

For Hampton, “the word ‘hatred’ covers a family of negative emotional responses” (Hampton 1988, p. 60). This family comprises the following types: 1) Simple hatred (the opposite of “simple love” or attraction) is described as an intense dislike or strong aversion toward an object perceived as unpleasant. This kind of hate is accompanied by the desire to see its target removed or eliminated; 2) Moral hatred is described as an aversion to someone “who has identified himself with an immoral cause or practice, prompted by moral indignation” (Ibid.). This type is accompanied by the wish to triumph over the target and its cause in the name of a moral principle; 3) Malicious-spiteful hatred is experienced toward persons who have personally brought harm upon us. We experience this hate in spite, malice or when one “nurses a grudge” against a wrongdoer (Ibid.). For Hampton, hate is a generic or umbrella term to refer to different aversive attitudes. Though she is not explicit about it, she describes each type as differing from the others in terms of feelings and desires toward the target.

For psychologists Sternberg (2005) and Sternberg and Sternberg (2008), hate “has multiple components that can manifest themselves in different ways on different occasions” (Sternberg and Sternberg 2008, p. 59). On the basis of various empirical studies, these authors argue that there is reason to believe that hate is not a single emotion, but a complex phenomenon that “does not exist only in different quantities, but in different patterns and blends” (Sternberg and Sternberg 2008, p. 109). As part of a larger theory on the nature of hate, these authors characterize this affective attitude according to three action-feeling components: 1) “negation of intimacy” which involves distancing and disengagement regarding the object because it arouses “repulsion and disgust”; 2) “passion” which expresses itself as “intense anger or fear in response to a threat” (this flight or fight reaction is integral to hate) (Sternberg and Sternberg 2008, p. 63); 3) “commitment” which involves cognitions of devaluation and diminution through contempt for the target.

The combination of these three elements generates seven types of hate: 1) Cool hate: disgust (disgust of negation of intimacy alone); 2) Hot hate: anger/fear (anger/fear of passion alone); 3) Cold hate: Devaluation/diminution (devaluation/diminution of commitment alone); 4) Boiling hate: revulsion (disgust of the negation of intimacy + anger/fear of passion); 5) Simmering hate: loathing (disgust of the negation of intimacy + devaluation/diminution of commitment); 6) Seething hate: revilement (anger/fear of passion + devaluation/diminution of commitment); 7) Burning hate: need for annihilation (disgust of the negation of intimacy + anger/fear of passion + devaluation/diminution of commitment) (Sternberg and Sternberg 2008, p. 73). These types are not exhaustive, nor are they mutually exclusive. Indeed, they can overlap.

Here I will not enter into a detailed discussion of each of these typologies. My aim is rather to show that they are developed following the same principle according to which hate can be described in terms of other affective states or combinations of other affective states. In my view, their main achievement is to have underlined a central aspect of our experience of hate: hate is experienced with shades of other emotions, its phenomenology being at times akin to disgust, while at other times resembling fear, indignation, etc. These typologies provide a tool to describe types of hate according to its phenomenology.

However, there are some worries with respect to these typologies. First, despite their descriptive power, these typologies do not provide clear criteria to distinguish between the types. Consider Hampton’s malicious-spiteful hate, which comes with shades of malice, spite, and begrudging against someone who has harmed us. It is difficult to distinguish this hate form moral hate, because we also experience moral indignation toward those who have caused us harm and wish to triumph over them. Sternberg & Sternberg’s typology faces a similar problem. As Landweer (2020) has shown, one hostile emotion can easily evolve into another. Thus, we can imagine how a type of hate that began from a strong component of disgust might rapidly evolve into a hate in which contempt is predominant. Sternberg & Sternberg acknowledge that the types overlap and are not mutually exclusive. However, the problem is that the criteria to distinguish between types are not clear because the boundaries between the emotions and feelings involved are not always easy to trace.

Second, the main worry with pattern typologies is that they tend to reduce hate to other affective states. Hampton’s simple hate is in fact dislike, and malicious-spiteful hate is Ressentiment, as already noted by Murphy (1988). Only moral hate, which Hampton links to moral indignation, is hate properly speaking. Rather than a typology of hate, hers is a typology of hostile emotions (dislike, hate, and Ressentiment). In Sternberg & Sternberg’s account, some types are reduced to other affective states: “cool hate” is reduced to disgust; “hot hate” to anger or fear; and “cold hate” to contempt. However, we can feel disgust, anger, fear, contempt (or combinations thereof) toward an object without hating it. In order to feel hate, something else has to be added to these components.Footnote 11 In explaining some types of hate in terms of disgust, anger, fear or contempt, these authors end up labeling as hate different affective attitudes which have little in common besides belonging to the family of hostile attitudes characterized by a wide range of feelings of aversion and action tendencies of distancing toward an object (avoidance in disgust, destruction in anger, flight in fear, distance in contempt, etc.).

But most importantly, hate has a distinctive phenomenology which cannot be reduced to any of these other states. As I will show, the phenomenology of hate differs from the phenomenology of all the other affective states mentioned by Hampton and Sternberg & Sternberg in their respective typologies.Footnote 12 In hate, feelings and action tendencies are combined in a unique manner.

In hate, fear, and disgust, the target is presented as threatening. However, the avoidant patterns exhibited by each one of these attitudes differ substantially. Fear responds to a danger with flight (only when flight is impossible does the fearing subject opt for its destruction); disgust responds by eluding its object but simultaneously remains ambivalently fascinated by it; only in hate is the avoidant attitude characterized by an active search for disvalues in the target and an unambiguous aim to eliminate it (Kolnai 2004; Kolnai 2007).

Like indignation and anger, hate can be a reactive attitude toward a perceived harm or offense to our person or group. But while these other affective attitudes focus on the other as offender or on the offending situation,Footnote 13 hate’s main focus is the other in her totality. Thus, even in those cases in which hate arises as a response to a damage, it is never simply reactive, because it involves a global view of the other as evil and a search for her negative features. In addition, while indignation and anger aim at restoring the damaged Self, hate’s main aim is to affirm oneself over the hated target.Footnote 14 Moreover, the particular form of affirmation involved in hate consists in destroying the other.

Like begrudging and spite, hate can arise as an aggressive attitude toward someone who makes us feel diminished in worth. But while the above-mentioned states remain focused on an aspect of the target in light of which we feel belittled, hate’s main concern is the other as a whole. Moreover, in these other states, the subject experiences inferiority and powerlessness (Scheler 2010). In contrast, hate has a self-affirming character: the wish to destruct its target elicits feelings of being uplifted and elevated over the other.

Like Ressentiment and contempt, hate presupposes a history of hostilities with its target. However, while contempt is marked by a progressive loss of interest and aims at putting the other at arm’s length (Bell 2013), and Ressentiment ends up denying the target of its positive features (Scheler 2010), hate devaluates its target but continues to seek out flaws in it.

In a nutshell, hate cannot be explained in terms of patterns of other affective states. Feelings and action tendencies (which might also be part of other affective states) are present in hate in a unique configuration. This configuration can be described in the following terms. In hate, we experience unpleasant feelings of being threatened, attacked or belittled by the other; we feel hostility toward her. Furthermore, hate involves the experience of a threat to one’s self-worth. There are several dimensions of self-worth which can be threatened: they can include one’s physical and mental integrity, image, norms or values. Moreover, the other can pose a threat to ourselves, others related to us, or the groups to which we belong. In hate, the threat to one’s self-worth does not necessarily imply feelings of powerlessness.Footnote 15 The xenophobe who hates foreigners feels threatened by them, but he does not feel powerless. In fact, he might feel superior to them. Moreover, as Solomon has put it, hate pressuposes “a degree of self-esteem” (Solomon 1993, p. 267). And as Hampton has indicated for moral hate (which, as noted, is the only instance of proper hate in her typology), hate “furthers a basic interest in the advancement of our own worth” (Hampton 1988, p. 66). In this respect, hate also involves feelings of self-affirmation over the other which can be pleasurable.Footnote 16 Because of this dynamic of belittlement and self-affirmation, hate has no associated valence.Footnote 17 When the focus is on the attack on one’s self-worth, it is unpleasant, but when the focus is on self-affirmation, it can be pleasantly enjoyed.

In terms of its distinctive action tendencies, hate works toward the destruction of its object (Elster 1999; Ben-ze’ev 2000; Shand 1914). This annihilation can take manifold forms, both symbolic (a fierce glare, a humiliating comment, etc.) and real (hurting, harming, damaging, killing, etc.). The destructive tendencies can shift form the hated object to related objects (things, personal relations with others, relatives, as in cases of revenge and vendettas). This tendency to destroy “for its own sake” (Kolnai 2004, p. 104) is the expression of a wicked aggressivity, rather than the manifestation of an instrumental aggression.Footnote 18

In sum, pattern typologies describe an important feature of the phenomenology of hate, but they cannot provide clear criteria to distinguish between types, and some of the types reduce hate to other states. They fail to account for the unity of the phenomena they call hate, i.e., the fact that hate is a sui generis affective state which consists in regarding the target as evil and which has its unique phenomenology. In the following sections, I will elaborate an alternative typology which accounts for the unity of hate. For my typology, I will focus on how the subject targets the hated object. This involves an analysis of the developmental history and the intentionality of hate. In so doing, I will also offer a different explanation for the fact that hate comes with shades of other emotions.

The Developmental History of Hate

Sentiments as long-standing attitudes toward another person emerge as a result of a process of sedimentation in which other states have taken part (Broad 1954; Deonna and Teroni 2012). As a sentiment, hate’s history is comprised of negative events. It has been noted that hate is never the first reaction toward another being and it has a strong biographical component (Kolnai 2007; Sternberg and Sternberg 2008; Szanto 2020). The range of experiences leading to hate is wide. I will focus here on cognitive and affective elements involved in its process of sedimentation. These cognitive and affective attitudes toward the other are not in themselves hate; rather, they prepare the ground for hate to emerge as a form to regard the other as evil which on certain occasions can be acutely felt.

At the cognitive level, as mentioned above, hate presupposes the perception of the other as a threat to one’s self-worth. I trace two distinctions in relation to the origins of and the motivations for the perception of the target as a threat.

First, regarding its origins, this perception might have been adopted from our environment in the form of norms and values (e.g., we have learned to reject certain traits and behaviors) or in the form of prejudices, stereotypes, and ideologies. In his exploration of the etiology of hate, Sartre observed that the Jew is presented as “the stranger, the intruder, the unassimilated” (Sartre 1976, p. 83) and that these categories are uncritically adopted by the anti-Semite from her or his tradition. In psychology, Allport (1954) indicated a tendency to adopt ready-made prejudices and to think in simple categories (e.g., by rejecting all foreigners) as an important aspect of the nature of hate. Sternberg and Sternberg (2008) have shown how “hate stories” provide prototypes which present the other as corrupted, impure, a controller, a stranger, an infiltrator, a destroyer, and so on, giving us various reasons to hate. Staub (2005) has highlighted the role of ideologies in the process of devaluation involved in hate. However, it is also possible that the perception of the target as a threat might arise out of a personal experience in which hate is elicited by a specific event, affront, conflict with the other or a specific feature of the other in relation to ourselves.

Second, the perception of the other as a threat might have a real motivation or not. The other can be a real threat, but it can also be the case that we attribute to the target the status of being threatening for reasons which have little or nothing to do with the target. This idea was aptly expressed by Allport (1954) who, following Fromm (1947), distinguished between “rational” hate that arises when some natural rights are violated and “character-conditioned” hate. The latter bears no relation to reality; it is the product of our own frustrations which become fused in a sentiment that leads us to seek out a convenient victim to hate. This distinction is descriptive, but it also has a normative moment. Character-conditioned motivations are epistemically inappropriate and morally unjustified (we do not respond to a violation of our values, but seek a target onto which we can project our free-floating aggression). Accordingly, I will distinguish between real and character-conditioned motivations.

The affective attitudes involved in the developmental history of hate cover a wide spectrum of negative responses. Sentiments, like other enduring affective attitudes, presuppose what Scheler called, in relation to Ressentiment, a “progression of feeling” involving other emotions as sources (Scheler 2010, p. 25) and what Broad described as “a complex dispositional idea of the object” formed on the basis of repeated emotional interactions with it (Broad 1954, p. 212). In the case of hate, fear and anger (Halperin 2008) and other forms of hostility (Staub 2005; Fuchs also mentions revenge, Fuchs 2021) are often mentioned in the literature, but the list is not limited to these phenomena. As Brudholm has put it, hate “lies at the extreme end of the continuum of attitudes at stake in our dealings with one another” (Brudholm 2010, p. 293). To arrive at this extreme in which we see no other possible way of dealing with the other than to hate her presupposes a history in which many different negative feelings might have been involved.Footnote 19

In my view, these different emotions involved in the development of hate go some way toward explaining why hate comes in different blends. As Halperin (2008) has observed, fear and anger not only play a role in the evolution of hate, but are also accompanying emotions that shape the experience of hate. The idea that sentiments are impregnated by the character of those affective states that participated in their formation can also be found in Broad (1954). Though my model of the sentiments differs from the accounts of Halperin and Broad, I share their intuition that sentiments prime us to experience those affective states that participated in their process of formation.

My idea here is that when hate is episodically experienced, it is often accompanied by those affective states that participated in its formation as a long-term state. By virtue of accompanying episodic hate, these other states shape the phenomenology of hate and give it particular shades. Hate does not come in different shades because it can be explained in terms of other emotions or has other emotions as components, but rather because when it is acutely experienced, hate is often accompanied by those emotions that have participated in its evolution.

There are some hypotheses for this. First, these emotions can be easily reactivated when we perceive, remember, imagine or think about the object of hate. Imagine that someone has hurt you, and you feel strong indignation, anger, revenge, etc. toward her, which leads to the development of hate as an enduring state. Each time you experience an episode of hate against her, the flock of emotions that led to its development can be recalled or reactivated. Furthermore, affective states that participated in the formation of hate might contain a degree of inertia. Imagine that you have been raised in an environment in which foreigners are presented as dangerous and you fear them. Imagine that this fear gives way to hate and you regard foreigners as evil. The fear might still have some efficacy in your mind, sustaining a set of beliefs, imaginings, etc. Moreover, your thoughts, imaginings, and perceptions are biased by the idea that foreigners are dangerous. Thus, it is also possible that each time you experience an episode of hate, you experience a new instance of fear that is elicited on the basis of a set of beliefs, imaginings, etc. that present foreigners as dangerous.

The Intentionality of Hate

This section turns to the other central aspect of hate as a sentiment: its intentional structure. In particular, attention is paid to the property of evil attributed to the target, the target itself, and the focus of concern, a notion introduced by Helm (2001) which makes the attribution of an evaluative property to a target intelligible.

The link between hate and the property of evil has been stated by all authors working on the topic (Scheler 1973; Kolnai 2007; Brudholm 2010; Elster 1999; Salice 2020; Sartre 1976; Schmid 2020; Szanto prefers to speak of the “hateworthy” and “odious”). I take this link to be a necessary condition for hate. According to the view on sentiments presented in section 2, hate is not a response to the property of evil (evil probably has no appropriate response), but a form of regard in which we attribute to the other the property of evil. Unlike other evaluative properties—such as the dangerous or the disgusting, which have a specific nature (thick values)—evil (as a thin value) can be related to the realization of different negative values (Scheler 1973). In this respect, depending on the situation, evil can be specified and it can become determinate in many different directions. The morally disgusting, the reproachable, the dangerous, etc., can all count as evil. This is why we can employ the term without committing ourselves to a specific evaluative description: someone can be “evil” for a series of very different reasons.

Regarding targets, it is usual to distinguish between person- and group-focused hate (Hadreas 2007; Brudholm 2010). This distinction runs parallel to the one spelled out by Salice (2020) between singular and general (or indeterminate) objects of hate. When hate is focused on a person, it has a singular content; when it is group-focused, the object is general (or indeterminate) because each member of the group or the group as such can be a target of hate.

Regarding its focus, the attribution of evil occurs on the basis of the different specifications that this property can adopt. We might attribute this property for very different reasons. In some cases, the attribution of evil relates clearly to a property of the target, but on other occasions the attribution of evil seems to depend more on ourselves than on a particular quality of the target.

Maintaining these distinctions between different targets and different foci of concern is important because, as I shall argue, they allow us to distinguish between types of hate without reducing hate to only one of its forms. That said, Szanto recently presented a controversial thesis according to which, in paradigmatic cases of hate, the target is overgeneralized and the focus is blurred.Footnote 20 As he puts it: “the very targets are not fixed but shifting—namely between individuals, groups, generalized social types, or proxies for groups” (Szanto 2020, p. 463). Any individual who exemplifies certain properties can be a target of hate (and thus the targets are “fungible”). The focus is blurred because it does not provide any information about how the property of the “hateworthy” is related to the target. In Szanto’s example of incited hate toward refugees, the focus is an alleged endangered ethnic homogeneity, but this focus is uninformative because it does not shed light on how the refugees are hateworthy. As he indicates, this hate is based on a distinction between the ingroup/outgroup and leads to the widely observed phenomenon of depersonalizing the target (Ben-ze’ev 2000). For Szanto, we do not hate another person for something she has done or for being a certain way.

Szanto’s view works well for describing hate directed toward groups (refugees, intellectuals). However, he leaves unexplained cases of hate where the target is singular and the focus is clear. Against this background, Salice (2020) has presented a series of convincing arguments against Szanto which show that we can hate another person qua this other person and that we can be clear about why this other person is evil. In Salice’s example, when Pam, a single mother with financial problems, comes to hate John, her landlord, for being exploitative through rent hikes, here the target of Pam’s hate is John as an individual person. The target of Pam’s hate is not “fungible” and cannot be generalized. Here John is evaluated as evil because of his character and not, as Szanto claims, as an overgeneralization of the target. Moreover, in this case, the focus of concern is not undetermined, but elicited in reaction to a particular value property (evil). For Salice, this kind of hate is more paradigmatic than the one described by Szanto.

As this critique shows, neither is the target always fungible nor the focus always blurred. Salice’s example shows that the target can in fact be singular and the focus clear. However, the target and the focus of hate might occur in other combinations. First, Szanto and Salice, despite mentioning “groups” and “social categories or classes” as distinct targets of hate, interpret the hate directed at them as a case of overgeneralized target and blurred focus. But, in my view, the focus of hate against some social categories such as liars or corrupt individuals is not blurred. The subject attributes to them the property “evil” because they clearly break fundamental rights. Second, we can easily conceive of instances of hate toward a singular object with a blurred focus. These cases have received scant attention, but they occupy an important place in human psychology. We can hate a specific other for being nicer, better, or more successful than us. The attribution of evil here is not based on a negative property of the other (we are very much aware of her positive qualities), but on negative feelings stemming from our side (feelings which in general we are reluctant to admit). The focus is blurred because the link between the positive properties and evil is missing.

Two Variables for a Typology

From the observations in the preceding sections, we can develop two variables for a typology: the replaceability/irreplaceability of the target and the determinacy/indeterminacy of the focus of concern. These variables are built on the distinction between target and focus. However, the form each variable will adopt depends on the particular developmental history of hate. The replaceability or irreplaceability of the target is determined by the origins of hate (environmental or personal), while the determinacy or indeterminacy of the focus is determined by the motivations (real or character-conditioned). The associated emotions will give each kind of hate a different flavor, but they are not determinant in establishing the variables.

The first variable is the target, which is either replaceable or irreplaceable. When the target is replaceable, hate has a general object and is directed mainly toward groups and social categories. It is only directed toward individuals insofar as they are exemplars of these groups or categories. All members are regarded as instantiating the same hated properties and as such they are replaceable. No personal incident needs to have occurred with the hated target: this hate usually has its origins in our environment. Through a process of socialization, we have learned to perceive the other as a member of a collective which has reproachable features and to experience fear, disgust, contempt or Ressentiment toward her. The target is evil because she violates norms/values (real threat) or because we attribute this property to her due to our own biases, stereotypes, prejudices, and ideologies or those of our ingroup (character-conditioned).

When the target is irreplaceable, we hate a specific person as that person. The origin of this hate is usually personal. This hate can have different motivations. First, there can be a decisive personal event with the other in which she has wronged or hurt us (real threat). Perhaps she has made us feel bad, or has insulted or attacked us or our loved ones or our group. We experienced this harm as a provocation and reacted with anger, indignation, impotence, resentment, revenge, etc. However, it might also be the case that the other did not provoke us, but that we experience her as challenging our worth for some reason based on our own psychology (character-conditioned). Maybe she is more successful, stays in a desired relationship with another person, is in a more advantageous situation, etc. In the process that led to the formation of this hate, we have probably felt envy, jealousy, and so on.

The target is either replaceable or irreplaceable. However, it might happen that a hate with a replaceable target develops into a hate where the target is irreplaceable. We might hate racists, but if by chance we come to interact with one, we can come to hate this singular exemplar. Conversely, it is possible that our hate initially focused on an irreplaceable target but shifted to a class, category or group. There is, in hate, a tendency to generalize (Hadreas 2007). For instance, a person from a specific ethnic group might have attacked us and we hate this person as this person; but it might also happen that we end up hating all members of her ethnic group.

The second variable is the focus of concern. This can be determinate or indeterminate. When the focus is determinate, the attribution of evil is traceable and it is based on a real threat. The other is evil because we have learned that some actions and qualities, such as killing, robbing, being malicious or wicked, are wrong (environment). We can also attribute this property to the other on the basis of a particular experience (personal). These are cases of “rational hate,” as Allport put it: the target is evil for violating our rights.

The focus is indeterminate when the connection between the target and the property of evil cannot be established. In these cases, the attribution of evil is character-conditioned. The indeterminacy can have two different origins. First, an indeterminate focus can be an indicator of some negative attitude from our side (personal). Rather than having been attacked by the other, what has led to the formation of this hate is that we “feel” attacked by her because we envy her, are jealous of her, etc. Since we are not prone to attribute aggressive emotions to ourselves, self-deception is not unusual in this form of hate.

Second, the focus can be indeterminate because we perceive the other as evil by virtue of biases, prejudices, and ideologies (environmental). In Szanto’s example, the person hating refugees will claim that they endanger our ethnic homogeneity, yet it is not clear why this would be considered evil. In describing the anti-Semite, Sartre argued that if we press him about the reasons for his hate, he will “abruptly fall silent,” indicating that the time for argument has passed (Sartre 1976, p. 20). In Sartre’s view, there is an element of bad faith involved in this reaction: the anti-Semite is not completely unaware of the motivations behind his hate, but he is not interested in examining their validity.

This variable presents itself in degrees: the focus can be more or less determinate or indeterminate. Consider these two cases of indeterminate focus. First, imagine you hate foreigners and that one day you become aware of your xenophobia. The indeterminate focus becomes determinate (you become aware of your biases and inherited emotions). The natural consequence would be to abandon your hate. Second, imagine you hate someone whom you envy. The focus is indeterminate because the link between the other and the property of evil is missing. The only reason why the target is evil is that you envy her. In general, you do not want to admit to yourself that you are envious. But given that envy, unlike Ressentiment, is not totally self-deceiving, it can be the case that on certain occasions you become painfully aware of the real reason for your hate.

The Four-Types Model of Hate

From the interaction between these two variables—the replaceability or irreplaceability of the target and the determinacy or indeterminacy of the focus of concern—four types of hate can be obtained: normative, ideological, retributive, and malicious.

  Target is replaceable Target is irreplaceable
Focus is determinate Normative Hate Retributive Hate
Focus is indeterminate Ideological Hate Malicious Hate

These are ideal types which are difficult to find in pure form. Though the criteria for establishing the types are clear, the types appear usually in combination or evolve from one type to another. In what follows, with the help of examples,Footnote 21 I will show how these types differ in terms of their developmental history (origins and motivations) and intentionality (target and focus). There are also differences in their phenomenology (each type is accompanied by certain emotions), though these are not relevant criteria for the typology.

Normative Hate: Tom hates people who lie for breaking norms and values.

Tom’s target shifts from individuals to the collective to which they belong. All members of the collective are fungible targets of this hate type. The focus is determinate: liars are evil because they violate norms (e.g., “thou shalt not lie”) and values (e.g., liars foster loss of trust).

Tom has learned from his environment to respect these norms and values, and to react with fear, indignation, contempt, etc. toward those who break them (affective states that will give his hate a specific flavor). Tom experiences people who lie as evil because they threaten basic rights. They are the agents of actions which are perceived by a society as wrong.Footnote 22

Normative hate has a righteous dimension and it arises as a response to those who threaten societal rules and/or shared values such as integrity, autonomy, freedom, etc. Tom hates people who lie because they break a norm and/or because they attack the basic value of trust. However, because social norms are diverse and they might also come into conflict, the righteous dimension of normative hate is not always uncontroversial. An anti-abortionist might hate abortionist doctors because they violate the rights to protect unborn life. By contrast, an abortionist might hate anti-abortionists for not respecting women’s right to decide about their own life and bodily autonomy. Each of these norms/values has its raison d’être even if they enter into conflict.

Ideological Hate: Tom hates foreigners for endangering ethnic homogeneity.

Tom’s target is general and replaceable. The collective “foreigners” and its members are targets of his hate. The focus is indeterminate. Tom claims that foreigners are evil because they endanger ethnic homogeneity. However, the link between endangering ethnic homogeneity and evil is far from clear.

Through a process of socialization within his ingroup, Tom has learned to regard foreigners as evil and to respond to them with fear, disgust, contempt, Ressentiment, etc. These affective states will infuse his hate. This perception is biased by stereotypes, prejudices, and ideologies. When Sartre speaks of the “irrational” and “petrified” values of the anti-Semite (Sartre 1976, p. 25 and p. 27), he is in my view pointing to the ideological dimension of hate. Tom’s thought is dominated by the dichotomy between “us” and “them.” Rather than responding to a violation of a norm, this type of hate projects our prejudices onto the target. Tom might claim that his hate is normative (in the society he lives in, ethnic homogeneity is a value) and that we call him a xenophobe only because we are victims of leftist ideology. However, the link between ethnic heterogeneity and evil remains blurry.

Ideological hate might entail bad faith. For instance, Tom might say that he hates foreigners for being thieves. Tom will come up with dubious statistics and reports and try to convince us that there is a correlation between foreigners and thieves. He will disguise his ideological hate in terms of a normative hate and specify the attribution of evil in various negative directions (as thieves, rapists, liars, etc.). However, Tom—like Sartre’s anti-Semite—is not interested in presenting arguments, but in imposing his own vision on others. The link between foreigner and evil is missing because the link between foreigner and thief is missing.

It must be noted that it is not always easy to decide what counts as a real threat and what is a mere projection of our ideologies. Moreover, norms and values as well as ideologies and prejudices are subject to change. What in a certain epoch might count as ideology can turn into a norm over the course of time (and vice versa). And many norms and values might be ideologically imbued. Nonetheless, the distinction between normative and ideological hate can be maintained in terms of ideal types. The former is a reaction to a threat that endangers shared norms/values, while the latter is conditioned by our group psychology.

Retributive Hate: Tom hates John for having attacked him and being unrepentant.

Tom’s hate is a response to an inflicted harm. John hurt Tom, and John is remorseless, has never apologized, and received only a mild condemnation. John as a target is irreplaceable. The focus of concern is transparent: John is evil because of his action and his bad character.

After having been attacked by John, Tom felt anger, indignation, resentment, and a desire for revenge. When Tom learned that John was not going to be convicted, he felt powerless and his hostile emotions gave way to hate. Now, when Tom sees or thinks of John, he experiences hate with shades of these other hostile emotions.

Tom feels that John deserves his hate. In fact, he experiences his hate as the right response to John. He desires John’s annihilation because he is seeking justice. Such a hate is what Murphy (1988, p. 89) and Brudholm (2010, p. 292 and p. 307) have described as “retributive hate.” As Murphy has pointed out (Murphy 1988; Murphy 2016), this kind of hate cannot be easily dismissed: it is not the expression of a vicious character and seems to be an appropriate reaction to a harm. Murphy (1988) and, most prominently, Miller (2007) have even argued that, when it is justified and conscious, this hate can have a therapeutic character.

Malicious Hate: Tom hates Max because he is a better philosopher.

This hate has an irreplaceable target, but its focus is indeterminate. Tom claims that Max is evil, but the connection between Max and the property of evil is unclear. It is unclear why being a good philosopher is evil and how Max threatens Tom’s own capacities.

Tom’s hate started as a strong sense of envy. Tom envied Max and it was painful to see how Max had the recognition and prestige that he would like for himself. At some point, this envy turned into hate. Max did not attack Tom, but Tom “felt” repeatedly challenged by him. Tom knew that he would never be like Max and he felt inferior and powerless, ultimately hating him. For Tom, Max’s excellence reminds him what a bad philosopher he is. In Tom’s logic: If Max did not exist, Tom will not suffer in the way that he does. Given its origins, malicious hate will be experienced as alternating or combining with envy, jealousy, etc.

Malicious hate, like ideological hate, tends to involve bad faith. Tom feels envy, jealousy, etc., and other emotions which are socially condemned. These emotions are often linked to self-deceptive maneuvers because we do not want to attribute them to ourselves. This produces a tension in Tom’s attribution of evil. On the one hand, Tom knows that Max is a good philosopher and that he is not guilty of anything. On the other, Tom will devaluate Max by claiming that he is a bad philosopher and will attribute negative qualities to him and claim that he has a bad character (arrogance, egoism, boastful, etc.), thus presenting his hate as appropriate indignation or righteous anger in order to disguise his vicious character. Cases in which the subject willingly acknowledges that his malicious hate is conditioned by his own bad character are rare, though not impossible.

Concluding Remarks

In this paper, I have offered a theory and typology of hate that account for both its unity and plurality. I have argued that hate is a sentiment whose sui generis character consists in regarding the other as evil. By focusing on its developmental history and intentional structure, I have elaborated a four-types model, according to which hate comes in four kinds. The proposed typology offers a nuanced explanation of the differences between types in terms of development, objects, and, to a lesser extent, phenomenology. Unlike pattern typologies, this model does not reduce hate to other emotions or combinations of emotions and the variables are clearly traceable.

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.

Data Availability

Not applicable.


  1. 1.

    Some authors speak of hate in terms of attitude. For instance, Brudholm (2010) employs this term in the sense of Strawson’s concept of the reactive attitudes, and Ekman (1992) argues that hate is an “emotional attitude” involving more than one emotion.

  2. 2.

    I only adopt this aspect of Pfänder’s view.

  3. 3.

    Emotions and sentiments would have both material and formal objects (to put it in terminology that has become customary in emotion research since Kenny 1963).

  4. 4.

    Moods also exhibit a distinctive affective-intentional structure: they target several objects and they are responsible for the cluster of values that we are more susceptible to apprehend (e.g., in euphoria we are more sensitive to experience the positiv values of the hilarious, the cheerful, the beautiful, etc. than negative ones).

  5. 5.

    I borrow the expression “form of regard” from Mason who has employed it for contempt (Mason 2003, p. 247).

  6. 6.

    In many cases in which we employ the term hate, as in sentences such as “Tom hates spinach” or “Anna hates spiders,” we make an improper use of the term to refer to a strong disliking and aversion, rather than a form of hostility (for this difference, see: Hadreas 2007; Kolnai 2007; Landweer 2020; Salice 2020; Solomon 1993; Steinbock, 2018; Szanto 2020).

  7. 7.

    In my view, hate as a sentiment differs from the class of “globalist emotions” (Bell 2013, p. 64). Sentiments and globalist emotions target the other as a whole, but while sentiments are affective orientations that determine how the other will appear to us, globalist emotions are responses to the other (for Bell, contempt is the appropriate response to the vice of superiority). For a different interpretation of the relation between hate and the globalist emotions, see Szanto (2020).

  8. 8.

    An intriguing question which goes beyond the scope of this paper is whether hate can also be an “activity” of the mind. The idea of hating as activity was put forward by Scheler (1973) and has been recently developed by Steinbock (2019), who distinguishes between “hating” as act and “hate” as emotion.

  9. 9.

    For a similar view, see: Szanto (2020) (though for him hate is not a sentiment).

  10. 10.

    These advantages are not relevant for the typology I develop below, but they support my view according to which sentiments and emotions exhibit distinct intentional structures.

  11. 11.

    A possibility for rescuing componential accounts would consist in regarding hate as a Gestalt or whole that emerges from a given set of other affective states. As a Gestalt, hate would exhibit sui generis properties distinct from the properties shown by each of its components.

  12. 12.

    These arguments for the distinctive nature of hate occur in the context of the view that hate is a sentiment of particular significance because—in a widespread philosophical view which I reject here—sentiments are explained in terms of collections of other emotions. For a discussion of sentiments, see Naar (2018). Though agreeing with Naar that sentiments cannot be reduced to “patterns” of emotions, I do not share his view that sentiments and emotions differ mainly in terms of duration.

  13. 13.

    Drummond (2017) has noted that anger is primarily focused on the wrongdoer and secondarily on the offense, while indignation targets primarily the offence and secondarily the agent of the wrongdoing.

  14. 14.

    For this tendency in anger, see Allport (1954); in revenge, see van Doorn (2018).

  15. 15.

    According to Fitness and Fletscher’s account of hate in interpersonal interactions, hate presupposes the perception of one having been “badly treated” (Fitness and Fletcher 1993, p. 945); in his analysis of hate of groups, Halperin speaks of the “appraisal of an offense” (Halperin 2008, p. 717; see also Halperin et al. 2012, p. 2234). In none of these accounts does hate involve feelings of powerlessness. For a different view—according to which hate involves feeling powerless—see Fischer et al. (2018), Fuchs (2021), and Salice (2020).

  16. 16.

    It is this self-affirmative character of hate which explains our positive stance toward it, a phenomenon which has been referred to in the literature as “commitment” to hate (Kolnai 2007; Sternberg and Sternberg 2008; Szanto 2020; Salice 2020; Sartre speaks of hate as a “faith,” Sartre 1976, p. 19). For a different explanation in terms of feelings of powerlessness, see Salice (2020).

  17. 17.

    This dynamic explains the widely observed fact that hate can be an unpleasant experience, but that it can also be enjoyed (Hampton 1988; Pfänder 1913; Shand 1914; Steinbock 2019).

  18. 18.

    As Midgley (2001) has shown, there are forms of aggression where we just want the other out of the way but which do not imply destruction.

  19. 19.

    For a typology based on the affective attitudes involved in the development of hate, see Voigtländer (1920).

  20. 20.

    What is “blurred” is the connection between the target and the property of evil, but not the target itself which is, in hate, always transparent to the hater (see also Kolnai 2007).

  21. 21.

    I will employ the use of examples following Protasi’s (2016) suggestive presentation of varieties of envy.

  22. 22.

    As Kolnai suggests (Kolnai 2007) and as Schmid (2020) has shown in his analysis of “hate of evil,” the separation between action and agent is never complete.


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This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Early versions of this paper were presented in Bielefeld, Heidelberg, and Milan. I am indebted to the audiences at these conferences and in particular to Thiemo Breyer, Francesca di Vecchi, Francesca Forlè, Thomas Fuchs, Sara Songhorian, Thomas Szanto, and Alexander Wendt for valuable comments. I am grateful to Simon Mussell for copy-editing this article. I am also thankful to two anonymous reviewers whose suggestions helped to improve this manuscript in substantial respects.

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Vendrell Ferran, Í. Hate: toward a Four-Types Model. Rev.Phil.Psych. (2021).

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  • Hate
  • Sentiment
  • Hostile emotions
  • Disposition
  • Emotion
  • Evil