Schadenfreude  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Schadenfreude is a German word meaning 'pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune.' It is sometimes used as a loanword in English and other languages.

It derives from Schaden (damage, harm) and Freude (joy); Schaden derives from the Middle High German schade, from the Old High German scado, and freude comes from the Middle High German vreude, from the Old High German frewida, from frō, (happy). In German, the word always carries a negative connotation. A distinction exists between "secret schadenfreude" (a private feeling) and "open schadenfreude" (Hohn).

Usually, it is believed that Schadenfreude has no direct English equivalent. For example, Harper Collins German-English Dictionary translates schadenfreude as "malicious glee or gloating." An apparent English equivalent is epicaricacy, derived from the Greek word επιχαιρεκακία, epichaerecacia. This word does not appear in most modern dictionaries, but does appear in Nathaniel Bailey's Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1727) under a slightly different spelling (epicharikaky), which gives its etymology as a compound of epi (upon), chara (joy), and kakon (evil).

In English, the word sometimes is capitalized, because of the German grammatical convention of capitalizing all common nouns in addition to proper nouns; however, as a loanword in English, it is typically left uncapitalized, following the rules of English orthography.

In Buddhism, the concept of mudita, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune," is often explained as the opposite of schadenfreude.

Literary usage and philosophical analysis

The Book of Proverbs mentions an emotion similar to schadenfreude: "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him." (Proverbs 24:17–18, King James Version).

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used epikhairekakia (ἐπιχαιρεκακία in Greek) as part of a triad of terms, in which epikhairekakia stands as the opposite of phthonos (φθόνος), and nemesis (νέμεσις) occupies the mean. Nemesis is "a painful response to another's undeserved good fortune," while phthonos is a painful response to any good fortune, deserved or not. The epikhairekakos (ἐπιχαιρέκακος) person takes pleasure in another's ill fortune.

Lucretius characterises the emotion in an extended simile in De rerum natura: Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis, e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem, "It is pleasant to watch from the land the great struggle of someone else in a sea rendered great by turbulent winds". The abbreviated Latin tag suave mare magno recalled the passage to generations familiar with the Latin classics.

Caesarius of Heisterbach speaks of "delight in the adversity of a neighbour" as one of the "daughters of envy ... which follows anger" in his Dialogue on Miracles.

During the 17th century, Robert Burton wrote in his work The Anatomy of Melancholy, "Out of these two [the concupiscible and irascible powers] arise those mixed affections and passions of anger, which is a desire of revenge; hatred, which is inveterate anger; zeal, which is offended with him who hurts that he loves; and ἐπιχαιρεκακία, a compound affection of joy and hate, when we rejoice at other men's mischief, and are grieved at their prosperity; pride, self-love, emulation, envy, shame, &c., of which elsewhere."

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer mentioned schadenfreude as the most evil sin of human feeling, famously saying "To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish."

Susan Sontag's book Regarding the Pain of Others, published in 2003, is a study of the issue of how the pain and misfortune of some affects others, namely whether war photography and war paintings may be helpful as anti-war tools or, whether they only serve some sense of schadenfreude in some viewers.

Philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno defined schadenfreude as "...largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate."

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Schadenfreude" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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