A Philosophy of Pessimism

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photoBy guest host Jack Beatty:

When George W. Bush, who was a cheerleader in prep school, can say, "These aren't joyous times," who are you to hold out against gloom? Pessimism's hour is now it seems.

According to Nietszche, "Pessimism is the consequence of knowledge of the absolute illogic of the world-order." He could have been talking about our world-disorder of global warming, terrorism, loose nukes, and avian flu.

Are you pessimistic about the human prospect? Does pessimism feel un-American? In your personal life, do you stagger under the burden of time — the ever-heavier weight of loss, decay, the looming certainty of death?

Philosophers have struggled with historical and personal pessimism. Now, a new book rediscovers these moody-brooders.

Can history, can life, be endured without hope of a better tomorrow?


Joshua Foa Dienstag, Professor of Political Science at University of California, Los Angeles. His new book is "Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit."

Peter Berkowitz, professor at George Mason University School of Law and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

This program aired on September 14, 2006.


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