With a title and theme like Pessimism, not everyone is going to jump at this book. This is unfortunate, since they will be missing a very unique and engaging narrative that discerns a conceptual history of the ominous worldview entitled pessimism. Professor Dienstag clearly delineates pessimism as a specific stance in relation to time. Opposed to optimism and its confidant progress, pessimism is the position that things may not improve as time passes. It is not that humanity is doomed or even in decline; pessimism holds that progress is an illusion and the human condition is getting worse or…Read
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