The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope

The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope

by Roger Scruton
     
 

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Ranging widely over human history and culture, from ancient Greece to the current global economic downturn, Scruton makes a counterintuitive yet persuasive case that optimists and idealists -- with their ignorance about the truths of human nature and human society, and their naive hopes about what can be changed -- have wrought havoc for centuries. Scruton's argument… See more details below

Overview

Ranging widely over human history and culture, from ancient Greece to the current global economic downturn, Scruton makes a counterintuitive yet persuasive case that optimists and idealists -- with their ignorance about the truths of human nature and human society, and their naive hopes about what can be changed -- have wrought havoc for centuries. Scruton's argument is nuanced, however, and his preference for pessimism is not a dark view of human nature; rather his is a 'hopeful pessimism' which urges that instead of utopian efforts to reform human society or human nature, we focus on the only reform that we can truly master -- the improvement of ourselves through the cultivation of our better instincts.
Written in Scruton's trademark style-- erudite, sweeping in scope across centuries and cultures, and unafraid to offend-- this book is sure to intrigue and provoke readers concerned with the state of Western culture, the nature of human beings, and the question of whether social progress is truly possible.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Library Journal
Conservative British philosopher Scruton (senior research fellow, Oxford Univ.; Beauty) here examines the use of pessimism for countering what he views as the "false hopes" of political and religious utopian and optimistic ideas. He argues that whether these theories are political, religious, or philosophical, they share similar characteristics of trying to fit the world into unreal and hopeless theories that are meant to improve humanity. But the theories contain blatant fallacies that their proponents overlook. Scruton explains that a cautious pessimism using reason and rationality can bring us back from the future-focused theories of the self-deceived idealist to the present, where, as a society, we use compromise and cooperation to create a civil society in an imperfect world. VERDICT While some of Scruton's conclusions may be controversial, especially regarding sexuality and modern-day Islam, 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.—Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MIX

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199798995
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
09/09/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,104,664
File size:
17 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

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Meet the Author

Roger Scruton is Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University. He is the author of over thirty books including Beauty and Death-Devoted Heart.

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