Jun

22

 We owe our modern misconception of optimism/pessimism to Voltaire, who in the interest of satire, oversimplified the schools of thought greatly.

It's possible to be an optimist in the sense of being a judicious risk-seeker, of seeing opportunity everywhere, while being an anthropological pessimist.

The judicious risk-seeker assesses the probabilities and is unreserved and aggressive, not assuming the worst.

The anthropological pessimist is a philosophical conservative, not in the modern political sense, but in the sense of Oakeshott:

"To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."

People too often think that schools of thought are in contention, instead of being potentially syncretic. The post-Marxist Leszek Kolakowski articulated one type of syncretism brilliantly: "As for the great and powerful International which I mentioned at the outset–it will never exist, because it cannot promise people that they will be happy."


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