Pessimism (Princeton 2006), by Joshua Foa Dienstag, is excellent on many levels, but its chief value is in the way it locates “pessimism” as an identifiable philosophical position.
In chapter 5; Nietzsche Dionysian Pessimism we read that “Time is the destructive power that stands behind any particular cause of suffering in the world. If one accepts the pessimistic assessment of the time bound world as a place of chaos and dissonance, one faces the choice of retreating from it or embracing it and trying to let harmony sound forth from every conflict. Pessimism fortifies us,…Read
Two voices echo through Roger Scruton’s new book: those of Edmund Burke and Michael Oakeshott. A nation, wrote Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, ‘is a partnership between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born.’ For Oakeshott, perhaps the pre- eminent conservative philosopher of the twentieth century, ‘To try and do something which is inherently impossible is always a corrupting enterprise.’ These two sentiments bind together Scruton’s argument in The Uses of Pessimism.
Pessimism claims an impressive following - from Rousseau, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, to Freud, Camus, and Foucault. Yet 'pessimist' remains a term of abuse - an accusation of a bad attitude - or the diagnosis of an unhappy psychological state. Pessimism is thought of as an exclusively negative stance that inevitably leads to resignation or despair. Even when pessimism looks like utter truth, we are told that it makes the worst of a bad situation. Bad for the individual, worse for the species - who would actually counsel pessimism? Joshua Foa Dienstag does. In "Pessimism", he challenges the received wisdom…Read
reviewed by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein on 1 February 2011
Example one: "A young black man strolls down the street in Oakland, California's African American community. He is wearing a Chicago Bulls athletic suit with expensive matching sneakers. The sneakers are untied and he walks with a light limp, leaning just a bit to one side. His arms take turns trailing behind him as he ambles on his way. He knows he is cool and looks good. He follows the popular rap groups and knows all the latest dance steps. Since he lost his job as a stock clerk…Read
Don’t be put off by the fact that this book is a ‘Russian classic’, it is truly worth a read. Plus, it isn’t a thousand pages of depression like some others I could mention.
The book, not surprisingly given the title, is concerned with the generation gap. But it is also concerned with Russian society at that time, embracing the modern world, disillusionment, the power of emotion, family dynamics, and change both individual and…Read
I find it surprising that it has taken so long for someone to dedicate a book to intellectual themes in rock music. That thought-provoking issues have often found expression in and formed the substratum of rock lyrics since the mid-sixties is certainly not news to most rock fans, and yet it has taken nearly thirty years for this to be formally acknowledged in an academic format. I can only assume that Harris’ very rock‘n’roll opening line: “Rock music has…Read