Optimism vs Pessimism

Which is the more rational(?), reasonable(?), natural(?) way to view the world. (I’m obviously having difficulty choosing the exact word, here. Please bear with me.) I’m often overwhelmed by the amount of pessimism shown in so many of the threads here.

I’m not asking about philisophical pessimism, necessarily–at least not how Schopenhauer’s thoughts led to pessimism; nor am I talking about wide-eyed optimism. I’m asking about pedestrian points of view–not depression or happiness, since I don’t think they’re opposites. I’m asking about the prevalent feeling, now, of “Gloom and Doom” about the world verses the feeling that humans can do something to make life better both for today and for the future. Is Western thought seeped in the ‘through a glass darkly’ world view so often thought of as Nietzschean?

Or has the word ‘faith’ lost meaning and become a word relegated to only religion and/or metaphysics? US Americans seem to have little to no faith in politics, government, capitalism, religion, philosophy, continuation of the species–anything. When God died, we were left with nothing to take its place. Science may have been thought of as taking the place of god–but it hasn’t, because we know too much about the fallibility of science.

Is that the cause of so much pessimism?

I’m bringing this back up because it is, to me, a ‘quality of life’ issue that I feel belongs under the Philosophy forum since it has to do with personal philosophies. Religion and Voltaire aside, do we live with Leipniz’s optimism and hope for the future or do we succumb to nihilism and pessimism? Is life nothing but a personal battle in order to achieve reason and logic. These battles can often lead to confusion and doubt (i.e., suffering) which may then lead to wisdom, granted. On the other hand, can individual life break away from suffering and doubt and lead to discovery and wisdom without personal battles?

If such a proposition is possible, does it negate “scientific,” logical reasoning? Probably. But then, does scientific, logical reasoning not negate intuition and innate creativity?

In the antinatalist thread you said something along the lines of:

Who cares ? If you want to have kids do it. If you don’t want to have kids don’t.

If you’re someone who doesn’t care about facts,discussion and arguments, then how could anyone possibly justify their optimism or their pessimism to you ?

But I do care about facts and discussion, vol. I don’t care for argument. What I say in one thread is in answer to that thread. The antinatalism thread was nothing other than page after page of you and O_H arguing, which was extremely repetitive and, therefore, boring. I’m glad you’ve stopped it. If you try to turn this thread into a running argument–and if no one cares to respond to it–I’m perfectly willing to let it die. Cheers!

My first thought is perhaps there isn’t a universal answer. What is the individual’s life like? What is the individual like? Perhaps they don’t fit in where they are and have no means of getting where they’d fit in better. Let alone things like being sexually abused by a parent. Some people also seem not to want very much. I am actually thinking of some rich people. They want things and money. Of course people of other means can also not want very much. I think this can lead to optimism where someone else who is yearning for something more may be pessimistic. Or is it the other way around?

I find myself to be both optimistic and pessimistic. Sometimes I notice that my pessimism is an attempt to preserve a deeper optimism. Like if I focus on the negative the universe will surprise me by making things work out. If I walk around like everything is great this is asking for trouble. I am talking about deep imprinted ‘ideas’ not positions I want to defend. So when I focus on the negative, sometimes at least, this is me trying to control things, and in my deep imprinted philosophy, the fact that I manage to see the negative and not expect the positive means that the positive will happen. I know that is absurd, but I find that in there. I am working on unraveling that.

Pessimism is based generally on what is possible in the future. apart from the past having a lot of tought stuff in it which affects our image of the future, the future certainly seems to include death.

Optimism and pessimism is like pleasure and pain.
Both can have utility.

If I could choose only one I would choose optimism just because it is more constructive.

Depression isn’t Neitszchean.

Lizbeth, for the sake of argument, let’s say that antinatalists are wrong. ( I don’t think they are)
Even if they are wrong, they have reasons to assume the antinatalist position.

By saying “have kids if you want, don’t if you don’t”, you are demonstrating a clear disregard for reasons and motives whatever they may be.
This is not about antinatalism, this is about you not being really interested in accepting facts or arguments when they don’t please you.

It would be akin to me saying: Fuck it. if you want to be gloomy be gloomy, if you want to be an optimist, then be an optimist.

I doubt it isn’t but that’s a great signature.

In the process of common knowledge we would be in proper form if we disected gloomies into all sorts of different types and subcatagories, then catagorized their behaviors and consiquences as observable. We would do the same for optimists.

There are many forms of pessimism. Some things are pessimistic or pessimist-like without being actual pessimism.

As far as I can observe, “negativity” saps the life out of people, and is less empowering to who they are when compared to “positive” things.

The results of pessimism in any of its forms can be observed by anyone whom is sufficiently good at observation.

Indeed. It’s called realism. :confused:

I don’t think depression is Nietzschean, Dan. Pessimism can lead to nihilism; but in my experience, at least, depression is more a physical/mental condition. A lot of people view Nietzsche as a nihilist, even though he used the word in more than one way.

Pessimists believe there’s nothing worthwhile in existence, don’t they? They are ‘looking through the glass darkly,’ unable to see anything other than ‘gloom,’ ‘suffering,’ and ultimate ‘doom’, which is, as you say, less than constructive. Is this kind of pessimism a form of escapism, a way to justify pain, or cynicism ‘taken too far?’

Getting back to Nietzsche, he didn’t kill God, either. Science did and it’s continued to do so. Nietzsche recognized and incorporated the prevalent nihilist feelings in the European thought of his time. (As an aside, look at the Sturm und Drang school of literature and theatre in Germany a century before. It was a movement in rebellion against the Age of Enlightenment.)

Pessimism/nihilism is still prevalent in the Western World. Imm, it’s led to apathy–no matter what we try to do to change things, things won’t change, so why bother. How often do you hear or read things such as: “You can’t fight City Hall, so why bother;” “Big Corporations have too much money and too much power; there’s no way of stopping them;” or “What can we do to control Wall Street, nothing–why try!”

Optimism, on the other hand, is the belief that things can get better. Things can change. The changes may not take place overnight and we facing very strong opposition–but, we can’t know if we don’t try. If we fail this time, we may not fail the next. Or, to quote the famous scene from Network,

If philosophy is meant as a life style, I’d rather be an optimist. It’s the underlying feelings we all have that dictate how we live.

Both are necessary for a balanced individual.

Yup i said the same.

Moreno, I smiled when I read what I’ve underlined. It’s so human. Think of the negative and, if it happens, you’re not disappointed. Think of the positive and you may be disappointed, but not always. And, if you think of a negative outcome and it turns out positive, it makes you happy enough you might even turn cartwheels–you’ve ‘beaten the odds!’

What I’m asking is why you feel you’ve ‘beaten the odds?’ Are the odds set against human achievement? If so, why? If you believe in a God, would He set the odds against His creation?

If you don’t believe in a God, but you do believe in some sort of plan (setting aside the idea that a plan assumes a planner), does any sort of plan work to exterminate us by setting the odds against the survival of our species? Yeah, we’re gonna die. Our deaths leave space for the continuation of our species. Yes, our species as we are now, will also die. But won’t our species contribute to the next?

That, to me, is the difference between optimism and pessimism.

Are those of you who disagree with me willing to explain to me why?

(glad I made you smile)

Anyway, I am way to selfish to have an optimism based on helping some future species, even future homo sapiens. I mean, that would be find and all, but it doesn’t do me a lot of good.

Disproportional pessimism to optimism, favoring the former, makes sense to me considering that people, among other animals, tend to pay more attention to negative events than to positive ones. Consider:


nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your- … wanted=all

Lately, I have felt pessimistic more often than optimistic, but I try to limit how moments of pessimism color the rest of my experience and my general outlook.

The article was interesting, fuse, thank you.

I still, however, don’t understand the preponderance of pessimism in the threads here any more than the oft-stated desire to do drugs to relieve angst and/or emotional pain. A certain amount of cynicism is needed, yes. With that I agree. But I don’t agree with pessimism as a life philosophy–perhaps because I don’t understand it as a life philosophy. I’d really like a true, every-day, normal pessimist to explain the value of pessimism as a way of living.

I was in Paris with a female friend of mine. We were totally out of money. We went to the Mar Boeuf Building, which housed an American Military headquarters at the time to spend the night–after having tomato soup we made out of hot water and ketchup in the snack bar. During the night, a man walked into the lobby and we started talking. At first, it appeared he was normally pessimistic, but the more he talked about his thoughts (it was after midnight and I was a stranger), the more I started to feel he was abnormally pessimistic. He’d read Robinson Jeffers poetry and had decided he wanted to isolate himself from the world just as Jeffers had done. The more I asked him about Jeffers isolation–how did he and his wife get groceries?–Did his publisher not visit him?–and so on,–the more agitated he became. Finally I asked, “Did Jeffers kill himself?” The poor man got up and walked over to where T. was sleeping, woke her up, and started into his lamentations again.

This has been my only experience with a pessimist–and he was a nut-job!

Why do so many people here seem to take on pessimism as a philosophy? Or do they, really?

I’m going to address the main thesis of this thread’s OP at the end of this post after I have addressed some of the peripherals that have been brought up to help with the semantics issues needed to understand what I would say about the thesis question. Although it’s going to be a relatively short response in comparison to the rest of the post, it relies on the rest of my statements to better understand it without me having to create an arbitrary length lecture to try to explain it and guess at what blanks I need to fill.

As a note, I’d actually argue that what we have now in the sense you speak of here is more akin to unthinking temporally near-sighted hedonism than “doom and gloom” per se. This probably isn’t relevant right at the moment, but I want to note this just in case.

When has it not been this way? Aside from some semantical arguments that this is not the most typical way metaphysics is conceived.

Why would it be the cause of pessimism? I can see why you might feel such intuitively, but why is it the cause?

I don’t think you can really call nihilism pessimistic as it is more of a non-statement (or a sort of null hypothesis if you’re a bit more versed in scientific thought) than one of pessimistic valuation. In nihilism, there is no valuation.

It is and it isn’t. It is an often great irony that the most rational thought takes into account that any thought itself is irrational. Perhaps more accurately though, it might be termed “arrational” if you can conceive of having “positive”, “negative” and “not applicable” evaluations of rationality. Whatever the case, rational thought has its foundations in not-rational things and it cannot be separated out of the result no matter how hard one may try, whether you wish to conceive of them as irrational or arrational. Either way will probably suffice for this topic. Nothing is ever truly rational nor anti-rational, only more or less so.

The battles only lead to wisdom if you fight through them rather than hide or flee. I would say that your implied causal link here is in reverse. The battles do not cause the suffering, suffering causes the battles precisely because one wishes to end the suffering. Without suffering for it one could gain some form of intellectual knowledge, but some type of suffering is required for wisdom in the sense I would distinguish the two philosophically for this context. Even if that suffering is in the form of feeling want for some knowledge or wisdom (which may or may not be sufficient for “total wisdom” even if it can get you some degree of it).

I don’t see why it would negate “scientific” reasoning. I purposefully leave off the “logical” adjective for the sake of more perfect accuracy of thought, just in case we need to go there so our thoughts are less biased to consider scientific thought as a/the fundamental underpinning of rationality as many might take on difficult to shake irrational faith.

Scientific logical reasoning does not negate intuition and “innate creativity” (as a note I find saying both of those to be a little redundant because creativity is essentially an intuition) and in fact is quite dependent on them in many ways. Many of our great leaps were not made from pure conscious mechanical logical deduction, but also from bursts of insight. “Intuition” somewhat broadly defined is also greatly involved in our degree of ability to work with the concepts and math involved.

The answer to this could go either way depending on what type of “gloom”, “suffering” and “ultimate ‘doom’” we’re talking about. Someone entirely convinced and in a panic that the world will end tomorrow fits all of gloomy, suffering and doom, and I would agree is not constructive, “taken too far” in the sense of denial of rationality, and perhaps also a form of escapism. Someone that is a self-proclaimed paragon of naturalistic hedonism would have an arguably gloomy, suffering and “doomed” view of themselves and how things work, would definitely be a way to justify causing pain to others, and arguably also being escapist (escaping from the responsibility for the consequences of their actions) and cynicism “taken too far”.

There are, however, some points of view, like mine, that people will furiously argue is filled with nothing but gloom, suffering and doom, and I would agree that this seems to be the case but only ostensibly and to certain types of people who cannot think past the surface. However, it seems logically impossible to nail me with escapism as my theory is the one that is ostensibly more inherently involving suffering in the typical philosophical meaning as well as accounts of other philosophies as being escapist, thus as long as my philosophy continues to hold in this regard I can always retort that my detractor’s philosophies are more escapist. I provide no real justifications so I cannot be said to be justifying pain (at least not per se nor considering dilemmas). Also, the philosophy is evidenced to myself as constructive based on what it has done for me, not to mention others that follow me. Convincing others who are not “there” yet that this is the case is a more difficult task, but from my point of view it is unassailable in this regard.

The only possible survivor of your criteria beyond that is “cynicism taken too far”. If we accept my definition of “too far” as a “denial of rationality” in that one flees from “doing rationality” for whatever reasons they have, then this would not apply to my philosophy. If you instead take some ethical or other subjective valuation, it doesn’t seem like a useful criteria for proving to/persuading anyone that doesn’t already agree with you as “too far” is very subject to personal interpretation.

There may not be a next.

It would probably help to better define which form or forms of pessimism you want to discuss. Arguably I am a pessimist by some people’s definitions of the word, but it is questionable as to whether I actually count as such in the way you’re using it in this thread.

Don’t underestimate the power of rhetoric, emotions and the subconscious. That entire (and very large thus useful to know how to work well) category of discussion-interaction you hint at imply here is all about rhetoric, as are most ethical discussion-conflicts fundamentally.

The ostensible content of the works may be depressing to some/many, but that doesn’t make depression a fundamental part of Nietszchean conceptions of things.

So is optimism. The difference is that pessimism focuses on the more negatively valued events that could possibly occur in the future and elevates the intuited/felt likelihood of those, where optimism does the same for the positive ones.

Now for the thesis of the OP!

Neither is more rational nor more reasonable as both “methods of thought” are similarly arational and “areasonable”; but, as fuse points out, there is at least evidence that pessimism is more natural. The evidence is not quite that clear cut towards pessimism only though as there are evidenced mechanisms towards some various definitions of “optimism” instead, but to really fully evidence and explain both sides of the “natural” part of the question from just what I know that we know empirically would make for a very long post that neither the current line of thought nor the utility involved in doing so in this situations seem to merit to me. I will possibly answer specific things however, or use examples where appropriate if there’s something in disagreement with what I know in this regard. On the whole though, I’d say current empirical knowledge adds up to at least being slightly in favor of “pessimism”.

Which is the better direction to turn, right or left?

Isn’t it always going to depend on your current situation?

When you are trying to not go too far to the left, you lean to the right and vsvrsa. What causes pessimism is the discovery that things are not as optimistic as you or others had thought so an emphasis on the contrary is inspired and often retained beyond its usefulness.

Normalcy bias is a common problem. It causes or exemplifies the urge for people to ignore a mounting problem. That allows problems to become far worse than they had to be. The “alarmist” is merely trying to draw attention to something before it gets too far out of hand. But if he fails, the problem can easily become insurmountable, thus yielding “realistic pessimism”.

The realist is not the one who always merely faces the truth. He also faces the truth of the fact that normalcy bias and habits tend to persuade against the real flow and thus must face the realization that he must over stress to the left so as to not fall to the right. If he succeeds, he then removes his “pessimism” and “optimistically” strives for a better future.

The perception of hope and threat is what guides all living creatures. The realist merely realizes that his perceptions might be persuading him too far in either direction. The pessimist is trying to compensate for too much optimism. The optimist is trying to compensate for too much pessimism.

Homo-sapian is not a well balanced creature.

It seems like the realist, then, tries to balance both. I’m not sure this kind of thing should be measured by success or failure, though.