December 7, 2020

Five quotations on pessimism


No one ever needs pessimism, in the way that one needs optimism to inspire one to great heights and to pick oneself up, in the way one needs constructive criticism, advice and feedback, inspirational books or a pat on the back. No one needs pessimism, though I like to imagine the idea of a pessimist activism. No one needs pessimism, and yet everyone—without exception—has, at some point in their lives, had to confront pessimism, if not as a philosophy then as a grievance—against one’s self or others, against one’s surroundings or one’s life, against the state of things or the world in general.


Perhaps this is why the true optimists are the most severe pessimists—they are optimists that have run out of options. They are almost ecstatically inundated by the worst. Such an optimism is the only possible outcome of a prolonged period of suffering, physical or metaphysical, intellectual or spiritual. But does this not also describe all the trials and tribulations of each day—in short, of “life?” It seems that sooner or later we are all doomed to become optimists of this sort (the most depressing of thoughts…)
– Eugene Thacker, Cosmic Pessimism

Pessimists shouldn’t be committed to pessimism. On the contrary, they should always be glad to be surprised when good things occur against the odds. It can thus precisely be pessimism that allows joy. Pessimism is not invested nihilism. It is the considered result of an analysis that suggests that the odds are not good. That what is faced is incomparable difficulty, and unless it is faced in the knowledge of how unlikely triumph will be, there is no chance at all.
– Rosie Warren, Some Last Words on Pessimism

Pessimism is essentially a religious disease. In the form of it to which you are most liable, it consists in nothing but a religious demand to which there comes no normal religious reply.
– William James

Pessimism is an inner love for life. The pessimist is one who cannot enjoy the joys of life and is very conscious that he has the passion of the unsatisfied and of the unsatisfiable.
– Kiki Dimoula

it’s too late for pessimism and despair, they’re too popular
– Chris Cutler (in 1975)


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