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Pessimism, Quietism and Nature as Refuge - David E. Cooper

Pessimism, Quietism and Nature as Refuge

By: David E. Cooper

Paperback | 19 September 2024

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How do we, as individuals, accommodate a pessimistic and misanthropic view of the world? If the human condition is impossible to ameliorate, then how should we live? How do we bring about the wellbeing and happiness we seek in the face of such overwhelming evidence that our condition is and will remain very bad indeed and owes significantly to our own entrenched failings?

In this thoughtful and insightful book the philosopher David Cooper explores this fundamental dilemma. He rejects an activist commitment to radical improvement of the human condition, and instead advocates quietism as a way to live as well and as happily as we can. This quietist position, which draws on Buddhist ideas as well as those from western philosophy, is supplemented by finding refuge from the everyday human world in a "place" both "other" and "better" than that world. Such places of refuge, Cooper argues, are best found in natural environments.

Refuge in nature, whether a garden or a wilderness, cultivates an attunement to, or a sense of, the way of things, and thereby invites assurance of being "in the truth" and the enjoyment that such assurance fosters. The quietist who finds refuge in nature lives as well as and as happily as anyone can do who accepts the negative verdict on the human condition.

Industry Reviews

David E. Cooper defends a pessimistic misanthropic outlook on the human condition. Any honest reckoning with the realities of being human feeds a deep sense of disquiet. The wise response, however, is to reject nihilistic despair and activist commitments to 'save the world'. Drawing on eastern and western philosophers, poets, writers, and environmentalists, Cooper urges us to take seriously more quietist possibilities - ones disguised by the relentless bright-siding optimism rhetoric of the world. The quietist lives under no illusions about the scope of their powers and the depth of the world's problems. Cooper elaborates moral quietism and shows its attractions to modern people striving to live humanely within an inhumane world. Readers attracted to quietism will find the book inspirational and a very welcome corrective to the monopolisation of moral discourse by activist attitudes and ambitions.

-- Ian James Kidd, University of Nottingham

This is a remarkable book. Cooper harnesses his tremendous erudition ranging across worldwide philosophical thought and cultures to present a timely antidote to hubristic unrealistic plans - that take various forms, economic, scientific, moral, ecological - to manage the entire world, so that the misanthropic pessimistic conditions of humankind may be vastly improved or eliminated, and in addition he addresses critically other responses. In so doing he argues for another way we as individuals may more truthfully and realistically live and deal with the human condition. It is a virtuoso performance.

-- John Shand, Open University, author of Philosophy and Philosophers

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