From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
WikiProject Philosophy (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject Philosophy, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of content related to philosophy on Wikipedia. If you would like to support the project, please visit the project page, where you can get more details on how you can help, and where you can join the general discussion about philosophy content on Wikipedia.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Additional information:
Taskforce icon
Taskforce icon

Stray Comments[edit]

simism is like superstition. Zapffe is not superstitious.

Actually, he deals with himself in Om det tragiske (en. On the tragic) and naturally points out why the biosophy isn't pessimistic, it just is. -- 09:14, 13 Aug 2003 (UTC)
User, there is no similarity or common characteristic between pessimism and superstition. Pessimism is the conviction that the actual world is the worst possible world. Superstition is ignorance of the correct cause of an effect and the subsequent attribution of an incorrect cause for that effect.Lestrade 19:45, 21 June 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

Discussion from VfD[edit]

Dictionary definition -- Graham :) | Talk 18:51, 25 Mar 2004 (UTC)

  • Keep. It's also a philosophical doctrine (that this is the worst of all possible worlds). I'll add some more material shortly. -- ChrisO 18:56, 25 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • I went ahead and merged this with the philosophical article, and made this stub a redirect. Smerdis of Tlön 19:47, 25 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • It was made into a redirect, this should be an acceptable solution. (Nice new format, what do we have to do to add new entries?) - Texture 19:48, 25 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • Keep, now that it's a redirect. (And may I say, I love the use of MediaWiki for this! Great idea, whoever thought of it.) -- Friedo 20:11, 25 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • Keep as a redirect. It's a good topic. Wile E. Heresiarch 01:23, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • Keep redirect -- Cyrius 05:09, Mar 26, 2004 (UTC)
  • Keep, and I think it would be better not to have it as a redirect, but rather an article proper. Sam Spade 07:38, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)
    • It might be better to move philosophical pessimism to pessimism and have the redirect point the other way, since even philosophers who speak of pessimism seldom qualify it as the philosophical kind. :-) Smerdis of Tlön 15:47, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • Keep. No reason to delete now. Though yeah, maybe redirect the other way (philosophical pessimism -> Pessimism)-Seth Mahoney 04:53, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
    • I have moved the page and created the new redirect. The content now at pessimism is what was formerly at philosophical pessimism, and what once was at the "pessimism" under discussion has been merged with it. Smerdis of Tlön 03:17, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • Keep "new" article -- Cyrius | Talk 11:46, Mar 31, 2004 (UTC)

I removed "(partially inspired by Schopenhauer)" after Zapffe's biosophy. He was also partially inspired by Job, Hegel, Shakespear, Wittgenstein, Næss etc. etc. etc. - 15:37, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

Half Empty/Half full[edit]

I don't know wether it has any relevence here, but I stumbled across this the otherday James' disproof of pessimism

To a bean-counter it's twice as big as necessary.

I'm pessimist and I think not all the pessimists will say the glass is half empty and i don't think all optimists will say the glass is half full.I think the glass is half empty and half full.

  • Of course it is both. The question merely serves to point out that people may view the same situation in different ways and that their general outlook on life affects this. --Tysto 17:54, 22 April 2006 (UTC)
    • And by being both (which is correct) it isn't a paradox, as the statements are complementary not conflicting

The half-empty glass analogy is not a good metaphor. Pessimism is the contention that this world is the worst possible. If it could become worse, it would not be possible for humans to live in it. See Schopenhauer's Proof.Lestrade (talk) 00:43, 4 February 2011 (UTC)Lestrade

The glass is 95% empty.-- (talk) 11:04, 13 May 2014 (UTC)


Wow. Arthur Schopenhauer in the same breath as Stephen King. Schopenhauer would be proud. Maybe I'm being optimistic. --Tysto 09:37, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

lol, imho, it's either Schopenhauer or Stephen King. As they say, one must go. Tootles
Dan Asad 03:01, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, and that'll be Stephen King. He shouldn't even be mentioned in this article.

"Famous Pessimists: Voltaire (most notably Candide)"

Voltaire was not a Pessimist, but a meliorist, as was (after rather painfully acquiring wisdom) his character Candide. The recommendation of meliorism is in fact the entire lesson of Candide. -- 05:35, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

Per the Candide article,

"Martin, is a Manichaean scholar based on the real-life pessimist Pierre Bayle, who was a chief opponent of Leibniz.(Wootton 2000, p. xvii) For the remainder of the voyage, Martin and Candide argue about philosophy, Martin painting the entire world as occupied by fools."
"a number believe that Martin is treated sympathetically, and that his character holds Voltaire's ideal philosophy—pessimism. Others disagree, citing Voltaire's negative descriptions of Martin's principles and the conclusion of the work in which Martin plays little part. (Bottiglia 1951, p. 726)"
  • Is Pierre Bayle a pessimist ?
  • What is Voltaire's ideal philosophy ?, no reference in Meliorism (talk) 01:22, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Saying that Rousseau and Voltaire are pessimist is an insult to their work. Scandalous. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:08, 16 January 2020 (UTC)

Bad World, Worst World[edit]

The introduction to the article asserts that pessimism is the "belief that things are bad." This is incorrect. The Latin word pessimus means "worst." Therefore, pessimism means that this world is the worst possible. A view that "things are bad" would more correctly be called "malism," because malus is the Latin word for "bad."Lestrade 21:45, 27 July 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

--(Not logged in) but I wanted to note that I read somewhere in a related discussion regarding free will where philosophical pessimism was described not as belief that things were the worst they could be, but that things were the only way they could be, without assigning any attributes of goodness or badness. I'm not sure if that was an accurate description, however.

As stated above, the Latin word pessimus means "worst." This is a fact and can be verified by anyone in any Latin dictionary. Your description removes any valuational meaning for the word "pessimism." What if I said, "I read somewhere that the word optimism means "things are the only way they could be, regardless of whether they are the best or the worst"? This way of thinking and speaking removes all meaning from the words. Any word can be replaced by any other word. Ethics then disappears, because there is no more good or bad, best or worst. Lestrade 12:25, 18 September 2006 (UTC)Lestrade
You're both wrong in your reasoning, even if Lestrade is right in his conclusion. The definition need not corresond with its etymology but its context. However, in this case (philosophical pessimism) it corresponds to both. Pessimism in modern philosophy owes its heritage to Schopenhauer, not Latin. Guinness4life (talk) 16:05, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

Optimism Bias[edit]

It seems like some frequent editors here have formulated articles as an ad hominem attack of sorts. It lists proponents of pessimism, coincidentally the most objectionable characters, and optimists in the best possible light, with proponents such as Martin Luther King Jr. I can assure you there were some Nazis during WW2 that were optimistic about the rise of their fascist empire, and some that were pessimistic. This article attempts to depict pessimists as dark, hopeless people that will never accomplish anything good. There are pessimists who are good people, and optimists who are bad people. That's all I can really say at the moment so I'll stop repeating this ad nauseam.

Pessimism as a term in psychology as opposed to philosophy[edit]

This article is about the term "pessimism" as it is used in philosophy, but I wonder whether we could do with a page on the term as it is used in psychology? This may be important, because, in the statement on hopelessness theory by Abramson, Metalsky and Alloy (1989), the authors appear to disinguish between clinical depression and circumscribed pessimisim. You can read more about hopelessness in the article on locus of control, in the section on attributional style. ACEOREVIVED 20:19, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

Philosophical Pessimism[edit]

Philosophical Pessimism has a long history that has recently been forgotten within academic circles. This article is poor in that it links both the psychological and philosophical outlooks. I think these should be separated into two different articles. I feel that the philosophical tradition has been slighted by this article. Furthermore, the variations within philosophical pessimism are not very well explored, in my opinion, in this article. I believe that Joshua Foa Dienstag's work on philosophical pessimism would be a good starting position for the philosophical article. (talk) 20:51, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

A list would be nice. The biggies are Schopenhauer, Spengler, Cioran, Evola (though he normally gets lumped in with the Orientalists). Only one is mentioned - Schopenhauer, mainly because he's the only one anyone reads. I've studied the Pessimists extensively. Want me to put one up? Oh, and then there's the Russians. Everyone forgets them. Guinness4life (talk) 16:50, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Freud has more than a touch of pessimism of the philosophical variety, so I think it's hard to sort out the two (psych and philo) until after William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience" defines the pragmatic value of religion. Most of the German shrinks (back when they were still philo oriented) were pessimists including the now long-forgotten Hartmann, et al. Even if you don't buy that - it makes sense that Pessimism bled in - Schopenhauer did have one of the best conceptions of the mind and perception until the twentieth century (and he was German, just like all the early psych folks), so naturally all the psychologists read him. Well that is, before Behaviorism created the psychologist-as-scientist rather than psychologist/psychiatrist-as-doctor, at least. Guinness4life (talk) 16:50, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

What about Armand Sanglier, who, in 1903, wrote, "The nice thing about pessimism is that everything turns out exactly as you expected"?Lestrade (talk) 00:30, 9 February 2012 (UTC)Lestrade

None of us seem to understand. Every article that relates to pessimism carries an extreme bias toward optimism. Optimism causes bad planning. Optimists assume that they won't be raped or murdered, they won't crash their car, their marriage won't fail, their investments will work out, they'll win their bets at the track. Pessimists understand that suffering and disappointment are inescapable, inherently part of all risk, and that preparing overmuch for these outcomes is also likely to fail. They become more interested in learning how to cope with life, and less interested in fighting it. The Internet, like the world of psychology/psychiatry, is full of people who are disproportionately privileged, and thus we don't understand just how important it is to expect ill fortune as a matter of course, especially in the rest of the world, where babies still die starving. We don't fucking get it. Pain is much worse when you don't think it's coming.

Hmm... have to be careful[edit]

See this edit, which was fixed by another IP more than a month later. I haven't read through the entire page, could there be more vandalism? Merzul (talk) 10:37, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

Removed paragraph on Eisenhower[edit]

The reference to Eisenhower was inaccurate and I have removed it. Eisenhower did not claim that the free market would harm American rights and liberties. He stated that the Cold War situation of a large standing army combined with the industrial system needed to supply it could do so, but that this could also be prevented by vigilance on the part of the government and citizenry. There was nothing inevitable about it in his opinion. This is not a pessimistic statement. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:46, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Politics section[edit]

Completely US based, as such pretty irrelevant outside of the US. elpincha (talk) 15:57, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

Cultral Pessimism[edit]

Can someone try returning the section cultrul pessimism? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:17, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure that's necessary. The section looked pretty awful. raseaCtalk to me 21:10, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Incomprehensible text[edit]

"it is ultimately helpless to prevent us from serving it"

wat -- (talk) 21:09, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

No Defensive Pessimism here?[edit]

I'm a bit to lazy right now to make additions to the body of this article, but why are there no discussions of defensive pessimism or the variation in psychological "pessimisms"? I'm sorry if I've made a few spelling errors, which I probably did. Canadianism (talk) 04:15, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

What is defensive pessimism? Could it be judging the "world" to be the worst possible in order to be pleased if it isn't quite so bad? Is that someone's philosophy? (talk) 03:40, 3 February 2011 (UTC)Lestrade
That's more or less what it is. Canadianism (talk) 00:56, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

Defective Image[edit]

The glass is not cylindrical. Its shape distorts and clouds the point, appearing to be objectively more than half full. Suggest you use something like this. (talk) 11:11, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Some changes[edit]

So I have added a lot to this article and when I do this I feel the need to explain myself.

I made a whole new section on "philosophical pessimism", my main guide to this was Dienstag's book on Pessimism, added more key thinkers for major proponents of pessimism and revamped the Schopenhauer section.

I removed the references to Nietzsche in the "criticism" section and developed these themes in the section on Nietzsche, for Nietzsche did not really criticize pessimism as such (rather some specific pessimists like von Hartmann), he was more concerned with attacking self denial and nihilistic forms of resignation (Schopenhauer, asceticism).

Merged 'political' and 'cultural' sections, I felt you couldn't really separate these two if you were going to talk about them at all (though I admit the merger might still feel a bit jumbled so any helps appreciated).

Added material to the "environmental" section while also renaming it "technological and environmental" for clarity. While technological pessimism and environmental pessimism often go hand in hand these days, it is not exactly the same thing.

I removed "moral" section, no sources and really, afaik, there is no such thing as "moral" pessimism, unless you mean some form of social/cultural criticism which would better fall under the cultural section. Nietzsche would more likely be a moral nihilist or perspectivist, not a moral pessimist (whatever that is).

Renamed "intellectual" section to epistemological which makes more sense philosophically anyways, also removed Gorgias reference, which (besides having no sources) really constitutes a sort of 'metaphysical nihilism' instead of any form of pessimism that I know of.

Let me know if there is something I should change or work on. (Javierfv1212 (talk) 03:36, 4 February 2013 (UTC))

Premeditation of Evil[edit]

Is there any source attesting this as a Stoic precept other than Burkeman? (talk) 18:57, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Change of Main Picture[edit]

The picture of the gentleman thumbs-downing the beer is too glib for what most regard to be a serious, philosophical position. (and indeed, I believe it is a personal picture, given that a reverse image search yielded no other but from Wikipedia.) I therefore changed the picture to one of Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the most well-known, highly-regarded philosophical defenders of pessimism. Let me know what you all think of this change. Steeletrap (talk) 00:48, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

New hashtag![edit]

For future reference, if anybody wants to hashtag sadness, use this: #hamlet GermanGamer77 20:09, 12 January 2018 (UTC)


Do we have anything anywhere on "terriblizing" ("terriblising")? John Perry Barlow defined it as something like optimizing for the possible rather than the probable, not realizing that there is no limit to how bad a result could possibly be. There's probably a more formal name for this.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  08:19, 21 June 2018 (UTC)