Discussion for Monday April 15th, 2019
Swallowing Toads: A Consideration of Philosophical Pessimism
Philosophical pessimism is not a state of mind or a psychological disposition, but rather it is a worldview or ethic that seeks to face up to the distasteful realities of the world and eliminate irrational hopes and expectations which may lead to undesirable outcomes.
For this discussion we will look primarily at two philosophers: Arthur Schopenhauer and David Benatar. Schopenhauer’s notorious pessimism followed mainly from is view of the human will and from his views about love. Benatar is known as a leading voice for “anti-natalism,” the idea that it is immoral to procreate given the amount of suffering in human life.
Are these philosophers justified in their pessimism? Are most people too overly-optimistic and less realistic about the chances for happiness in life? Or are they missing some key point about the meaning of life and happiness?
To this end we will read a few short excerpts from these thinkers and dissect the reasons for their views. We will discuss our views about pessimism and how we see our own lives in context.