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The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  200 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews

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 nu
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Published September 9th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2010)
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Dec 22, 2014 Mauro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know that what you are reading is a conservative book when:
a) the text is very simple and clear, even though it conveys ideas about the most complex problems of human existence;
b) the author leaves your brain some room for interaction, either accepting your disagreement (by not making a case-closed argument out of every conclusion), or inducing you to complete the thought. And this is made straight clear, so you don't get manipulated;
c) every point is illustrated by a factual example, not on
Roger Scruton is a well-known conservative, and has a reputation as a "darling" of the right. His defenses of conservatism are powerful and thoughtful, with very interesting philosophical arguments. The book goes on exploring a number of fallacies that, in Scruton's opinion, explains why radical shifts from tradition are damaging for civil society.

The basic thesis and rhetorical element of the book are the 'I' versus the 'we' forms of behavior and its relation with freedom. This thesis, taken f
Joel Zartman
Roger Scruton has some odd notions about the Bible. He seems not to realize that the believer’s hope is in God and as a consequence is a bit down on Jeremiah; Jeremiah is a pessimist in ways Scruton does not want to be. But still Scruton wants to use pessimism. He uses pessimism to show how it helps to avoid seven fallacies that are in the world today. While Scruton is a bit screwy on his use of Scripture, the good news is that he uses Scripture very little in this book—mostly near the end.

Philip Cartwright
Scruton's defence of conservativism (which he here calls pessimism) is thoughtful and well-argued. It's a pity, though, that he all too often descends into tired leftie-bashing as if the last 20 years had never happened. All the usual suspects are rounded up and shot, but not once does it seem to occur to him that the modern-day Right can be every bit as utopian and ideology-driven as its left-wing counterparts. Indeed, the one time he mentions the financial disaster of 2008 he lays the blame at ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Kurtzprzezce rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, politics
Oczekiwania miałem całkiem wysokie, mimo że konserwatyzm nie jest mi specjalnie bliski. Ta książka to duży zawód. Chciałem dać choć 2 gwiazdki, ale Pożytki z pesymizmu na nie nie zasługują. Można zacząć od tego, że książka nie ma bibliografii i tylko z rzadka pojawia się jakiś przypis. Znaczy to, że książka i tezy w niej prezentowane prawie nie mają poparcia w empirii. Scruton rzuca sobie myślami niespecjalnie je uzasadniając lub tłumacząc. Sprawiają one wrażenie słabo przemyślanych, bo niejedno ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Natalie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ma-research
This one is going to be grand, I can feel it.
Kevin Summers
Jun 17, 2016 Kevin Summers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sample quote: "It [i.e. optimism] expresses a kind of distrust of humanity, an inability to allow that we can actually move on from our original nature, and create a flexible, reasonable and charitable 'we,' which is not a collective 'I' at all, but the by-product of individual freedom. But this trust is unfounded. The world is, in fact, a much better place than the optimists allow: and that is why pessimism is needed."

I wish that, in addition to examples of negative outcomes from liberals' use
Apr 08, 2013 ehk2 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
First of all, what he argues for cannot even called 'pessimism' -that would be an insult to a philosophical concept. This is simply a hollow, reactionary, foolish writing. He's the last thing to be called a philosopher. On the contrary, he is a typical same old right-wing straw man. And his so-called 'pessimism' is the pessimism of the 'privileged', of the status quo, of the 'marketeer' who blindly believes in the auto-corrective mechanisms of the invisible hand and preaches us the futility of a ...more
Nov 27, 2015 Anton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having been a hothead socialist in my salad days, I found myself nodding slowly & ruefully at so much in this work. Even if I'd been shaking my head instead, I'd have to have conceded that the man's prose deserves no lesser accolade than 'Olympian'.
There is a reason he evidently doesn't feel the need to 'get' any of all the Rive Gauche guff...
Oct 06, 2011 Edwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Vooral het eerste deel was heel goed. In dat deel worden diverse drogredenen door de mangel gehaald. Typisch drogredenen gehanteerd door utopisten die alles in het werk stellen om ons een glorieuze en uiteraard betere toekomst in te duwen. De laatste hoofdstukken zijn niet allemaal even goed, vind ik, maar over het algemeen blijft een positief beeld achter.

Ik weet niet hoe goed de vertaling is. Er staan geen notities van de vertaler of een inleiding in of iets dergelijks. Op de achterkant staat
Apr 08, 2016 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roger-scruton
A comparatively easy read compared to some of Scruton's more philosophical works. Here, Scruton identifies several "fallacies" that plague the unbridled optimist and then demonstrates how they can be corrected with a healthy dose of pessimism. You don't have to read between the line too much to realize the optimists have many similarities to big government progressives. Whether that's the intention or not, using pessimism in the way Scruton suggests will come easier for those with conservative d ...more
Apr 22, 2013 Philski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Roger goes through various fallacies chapter by chapter building on the previous ones, starting with very basic fallacies (i and we, planning, utopias) and building up to a cogent argument on why optimism leads to failures and time/budget overruns and why pessimism is necessary to keep things in check. It does deal somewhat with political philosophy and favors conservatism over liberalism (or maybe better stated historical liberalism versus modern liberalism).
Sep 04, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Pretty much sums up just about everything I believe about political wishful thinking run amok, but written in a clarity of style I can never hope to match.
Aviva Dierckx
bangelijk deze neo-conservatieve denker! blij een liberaal te zijn, en de gevaren van zijn denkpistes duidelijk te kunnen onderscheiden. lees het om dit gedachtengoed te kunnen herkennen en ontmaskeren bij wie er zich tegenwoordig van bedient in de politiek maar ook elders...
Mar 10, 2011 Joshua rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one was difficult to get my head around. Scruton is definitely an academic, certainly a scholar; I felt that I was listening to an overly long, rambling lecture and the hall doors were locked. "Let me out of here!"
Very good. Scruton attacks the optimism of the Left, recommending a Burkean pessimism and caution.
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Roger Vernon Scruton is a self-employed English philosopher and writer, known in the UK as a key figure in the "New Right" in the 1980s and 1990s. He currently lives in rural Wiltshire, but was a professor of philosophy at Boston University from 1992 to 1995, and subsequently a professor at Birkbeck College, London.
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“Nonsense has taken up residence in the heart of public debate and also in the academy. This nonsense is part of the huge fund of unreason on which the plans and schemes of optimists draw for their vitality. Nonsense confiscates meaning. It thereby puts truth and falsehood, reason and unreason, light and darkness on an equal footing. It is a blow cast in defence of intellectual freedom, as the optimists construe it, namely the freedom to believe anything at all, provided you feel better for it.” 0 likes
“The dead and the unborn make their presence known through traditions, institutions, and laws.” 0 likes
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