Optimism is fundamental to the human spirit and has sparked innovation across the centuries, but does it have a dark side? Renowned philosopher and author Roger Scruton argues that unchecked optimism can be dangerous—and that real happiness hinges on a healthy pessimism that recognizes the limitations of human beings.
The Uses of Pessimism is a far-reaching yet concise assessment of how pessimism can compensate for the fallacies generic to the optimistic mind-set and enable us to live with our own imperfection. Spanning from ancient Greece to the current economic crisis, the book persuasively concludes that optimists and idealists have courted disaster by overlooking the hard truths of human nature and by adopting naïve expectations about what can be changed. Scruton demonstrates how many optimism-fueled advances, from the railway to the Internet, reflect a careless pursuit of mastery that is at odds with—and often undermines—the limited happiness that is the best we can obtain. He urges us to see pessimism not as dark and fatalistic, but as a hopeful point-of-view that favors a balanced appraisal of society and human nature as opposed to utopian wishful thinking. Ultimately, pessimism helps focus our energies on the one reform we can truly master: bettering ourselves.
In the rigorous but lively style that is his trademark, Scruton throws down the gauntlet to readers, challenging everyone to reevaluate their assumptions about the meaning of pessimism. The Uses of Pessimism breaks down the fallacies surrounding the optimist's perpetually sunny worldview, offering a voice of wisdom with which to rein in hopes that might otherwise ruin us.
About the Author
Roger Scruton is Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University. He is the author of more than 30 books, including Beauty and Death-Devoted Heart.
"Scruton has approached his project with incisiveness, breath of knowledge, and clarity of expression. The Uses of Pessimism is worth arguing over." --Politics & Ideas
"While some of Scruton's conclusions may be controversial... he does present an intriguing case for using pessimism as a way to examine issues that affect current society. His clear and accessible writing will appeal to those familiar with the author's past works and also those with an interest in philosophy." --Library Journal
"Scruton has approached his project with incisiveness, breadth of knowledge, and clarity of expression. The Uses of Pessimism is worth arguing over."
-- Peter Lopatin, Commentary
"Score one for pessimism." --Peter Monaghan, The Chronicle of Higher Education