The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...

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The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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."—Scott Duimstra, 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

Praise for Roger Scruton

"Both left and right should be grateful to have such a man to sharpen and define the issues. And philosophers should be grateful that he has placed their subject at the very centre of current affairs. Perhaps Scruton's greatest contribution is his living demonstration of the truth that without philosophy we are nothing."—Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

"Scruton . . . is a learned, witty, wide-ranging, prolific, and often dazzling writer."—The Weekly Standard

"A practiced and elegant writer."—The Independent

"Dr. Scruton writes with an unusual clarity and fluency, and is always a pleasure to read."—Times Education Supplement

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, USA
  • Publication date: 10/7/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 17 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet 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: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.

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Table of Contents

Preface 1

One The First-Person Future 7

Two The Best Case Fallacy 20

Three The Born Free Fallacy 42

Four The Utopian Fallacy 62

Five The Zero Sum Fallacy 80

Six The Planning Fallacy 98

Seven The Moving Spirit Fallacy 128

Eight The Aggregation Fallacy 153

Nine Defences against the Truth 166

Ten Our Tribal Past 196

Eleven Our Civil Present 205

Twelve Our Human Future 229

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