An Ode to Pessimism


The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised. – George F. Will

I haven’t got the greatest of hopes for today’s blog, but we’ll see how it goes.

 This entry was inspired by iGoogle’s quote of the day (above), and as per usual, a rather a lot (too much) thinking has been involved ever since. To aid my thinking I picked up my philosophical dictionary (it’s a dictionary of philosophical terms, not literally a dictionary which is philosophical – we could get in to a whole heap of mess and metaphors carrying on at this pace…)


Under ‘pessimism’ in the dictionary there were three different entries. Well that’s an optimistic start to help with this blog at least. Under one of the entries for pessimism were several associated words; sorrow, pity, gloom, despondency, hopelessness, absurdity, pain, death; however the most interesting point of this entry was the idea that these things are not just possible, but inescapable. Before I slit my wrists right there at the kitchen table, I looked up the entry for optimism. Much to my chagrin, the opposites of these words could not be found. Which I thought was a great shame.

Flipping back to pessimism, I noticed that there were metaphysical entries. (Once again, not in the literal since, but entries about metaphysics). Schopenhauer says that this world is the worst of all possible worlds, because if it was any worse than it was, it couldn’t exist. This is interesting, but I’m wondering if Schoppy considered that this is the only world? What does that mean then? I bet he did slit his wrists at the kitchen table having thoughts like that all day long. Cheer up love, so long as there are fruity cakes and peach melba in the world, it can’t be all bad can it?

The most famous pessimistical (is that a word? I hope so…) metaphor we’ve all encountered is the glass half full/empty metaphor. I’ve always believed that the state of fullness or emptiness is entirely dependent on the state with which it started. If someone brought me a glass full of water and I drank half of it, I would then say it was half empty. If, on the other hand, they bought me an empty glass and poured some water in, I would then say it was half full.


I’m guessing however, that in the analogy, we don’t know what the glass started off as. This is why I think I will say that the glass is half full because we can presume that at some point it has indeed been empty. Maybe this just proves my optimism. One thing’s for sure, it proves my pedanticism.

So how to conclude today’s blog. I think I’ve decided throughout all this thinking that I am indeed an optimist. But I do worry that I should be a pessimist, because then, much like George F. Will, I’d never be disappointed. So if I’m an optimist who worries, what does that make me? I think I must be a post-modern optimist. 😉 

Ciao chums, I’m off to fill glasses half full with water

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