Saturday, November 20, 2021


Optimism and Pessimism

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), p. 14:
I remember as a child having the difference between optimism and pessimism explained to me in a way that illustrates perfectly their separability from fact and their inseparability from vision. Two men who are drinking together shoot simultaneous glances at the bottle they are sharing, and one thinks to himself: 'Ah good, it's still half full' while at the same moment the other thinks: 'Oh dear, it's half empty already.' The point is, of course, that they would have no argument about how much wine there is in the bottle, or about the accuracy of any measurement, photograph or drawing, and yet the same fact is being not only seen but responded to in two all-pervadingly different ways. This all-pervadingness makes the whole world of the optimist different from that of the pessimist, and our two men would describe differently almost everything that there is — in significantly different language, that is to say, albeit with the same factual content. (This is the import of Wittgenstein's 'The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man'.)5

5 Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6. 43.

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