I am looking for one word that is explained as "the belief in the good nature of humankind". It is not philanthropy or humanitarianism; rather, I am looking for one word to describe one's belief in philanthropists.

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    The perpetual-optimist fictional character that immediately comes to mind is Pollyanna, but I'm not sure how to turn her name into a belief system -- Pollyannaism?
    – JPmiaou
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 4:37
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    <tongue-in-cheek>Does 'gullible' suffice?</tongue-in-cheek> Commented May 25, 2011 at 5:36
  • I was thinking 'gullible' or 'deluded'. :) Commented May 25, 2011 at 21:52
  • Or naïve perhaps? ;-)
    – Zano
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 16:02
  • @JPmiaou somebody who shares the personality of Pollyanna is called 'a Pollyanna' and the word polyannaism is recognised and defined by Merriam-Webster merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Pollyannaism : the overly optimistic and benevolently cheerful state of mind and point of view of a Pollyanna -- it is an excellent choice for OP! Commented May 30, 2017 at 1:29

7 Answers 7


I suggest "humanism." Various dictionaries define it in roughly-similar ways, but Merriam-Webster has this:

a system of values and beliefs that is based on the idea that people are basically good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion

  • Thanks, I think this is the closest match to what I want. Reading wuthering heights, the book talks about this.
    – peia
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 12:20

You might say someone like that is Panglossian:

Pan·gloss·i·an (pn-gls-n, -glôs-, png-) adj. Blindly or naively optimistic.

The term comes from a character in Voltaire's Candide, which "begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply Optimism) by his mentor, Pangloss."

  • +1 for Pangloss. That's the one I was actually looking for. Commented May 25, 2011 at 8:59

"Optimist" is the first that comes to mind, but is not specific about humankind.

How about "Rousseauian"?

Also, my personal favorite, "naiveté"


■ It would be a dangerous and biased way to use "humanism" in that case. Humanism is mainly define by the fact of giving price to human life. If you attach the concept of humanism to the belief that human nature is innately "good", then you threaten the core value of humanism (this belief about human nature has been badly shaken by science since the 80's). Giving price to life doesn't imply the need of a "good" human nature (cf. the is–ought problem). The same apply to "benevolence" as it could merely be a learning and not an innate state.

■ "Naivety" or "optimism" are subjective and thus are more interpretations than definition of "belief in the good nature of humankind”

I suggest "Rousseauian" (like JeffSahol) which is based on the "Noble savage" belief:

Rousseau believed that "nothing is more gentle than man in his primitive state".

This belief is link to what is called a "naturalistic fallacy" and more precisely an "appeal to nature".



noun: altruism
the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
"some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism"

unselfishness, selflessness self-sacrifice, self-denial, consideration, compassion, kindness, goodwill, decency, nobility, public-spiritedness, generosity, magnanimity, liberality, open-handedness, free-handedness big-heartedness, lavishness, benevolence, beneficence, philanthropy, humanitarianism, charity, charitableness, bounty, bounteousness.

behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.

Source: Lexico


I'll propose benevolence.

The primary definition of the OED for this word is:

benevolence: Disposition to do good, desire to promote the happiness of others, kindness, generosity, charitable feeling (as a general state or disposition towards mankind at large).


In psychology, "humanism" is the perspective that focuses on the belief that all humans are inherently good.

However, the definition of the word "good" is subjective, and science has disproved time and time again the axiom all humans are inherently good.

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    EL&U generally wants answers that are documented with some explanation or references. You might therefore want to add to your answer so it doesn't get deleted.
    – Xanne
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 1:05
  • +1 with Xanne, please provide references with your answers :)
    – 3kstc
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 2:40

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