• ernestm
    454
    Why is it true, if one drops a piece of buttered bread, there is always a feeling of dread that it will land butter-side down? For some reason philosophers do not normally reason about such questions. Why is that? There is no school of philosophy about pessimism. Fate, yes. Suffering, yes. Depression, yes. Pessimism, no.

    Probably the most miserable philosopher of all time is Kierkegaard, so how would he think after dropping a pice of buttered bread? Would he have that sinking feeling that it would necessarily land butter side down? No, he would pray to God to be absolved of the fate and remove himself from consideration of the outcome.

    What of Dostoevsky? Would he think it would necessarily fall butter-side down? No, he would hope it does so he could experience the depression from it, and hence learn something deeper about himself. Both

    Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, despite being negative in perspective, seek a different result from a bad experience than pessimism. Why are aphorisms about the outcome of mistakes all negative?

    Perhaps it is because cynicism is a naive and natural state, and optimism is learned. As the bread falls, we have an intuitive and natural reaction that the result of a making a mistake will probably be something worse, even when we know, rationally, the odds are equal.

    This proves that cynicism is natural, and optimism is reasoned. Hence, the best philosophers, even the logicians, are those that counter such cynicism, even logicians.

    Did Wittgenstein call his early philosophy logical negativism? No, it was logical positivism. He reasoned why one should be positive from a logical perspective. If we needed philosophy to counter an intuitive reaction of optimism, then he logically would have pursued logical negativism as his first investigation.

    if you disagree, then tell me honestly that when your drop a piece of buttered bread, you do not have that sinking feeling.
  • luckswallowsall
    16
    An argument for the opposite would simply be the fact that children will run into the road and talk to strangers before they are taught not to.

    Schopenhauer's philosophy is actually the most miserable.

    Buttered bread is not relevant to optimism or cynicism.
  • Grre
    61

    I disagree, I quite like the buttered bread metaphor.
    Also learned social mores and rules, such as talking to strangers, is not really related to the OP's point on attitudes. 10,000 years ago (when human minds last evolved), there were no roads to fear, and most children were raised by all members of the village/tribe so maybe 10-100 people give or take, there were no strangers, so no reason to be cynical about the danger.

    The OP is talking about attitudes of future outcomes, not direct fear or desires. Just because I am cynical does not mean that I necessarily fear something, for example-a lot of people use cynicism to combat fear, they believe that expecting the worse to happen can help prepare them for it to happen, thus no reason to be afraid.


    I quail at the word 'natural' misused, but I do see your point, people may have more of a disposition towards pessimism than optimism. From an evolutionary point, this would have an advantage, if you are negative about the outcomes of things, you will be more on guard, and then less likely to succumb to things, hence why your eyes will play tricks sometimes on you in the dark or frightening places, a couple seconds of fright at nothing is a whole lot less worse than not being hyper-aware and missing the real threat in the dark. I forget what book I read where they talked about this-maybe it was my philosophy of emotion class. I'll think about that. Then again, its difficult to differentiate learned pessimism from innate predisposition to it; for example, the first time I had my sunglasses stolen right from the coffee table of my own house, I became a lot of more suspicious of my so-called 'friends' and took a lot more care of my sunglasses, never leaving them out around the house ect. Then again, I would not say that I was optimistic about them not being stolen, more so naive, but now I have learned my lesson and take defensive measures; which arguably, I think pessimism is all about.
    A more clear example would be the argument that people are more predisposed to trusting and gullible behaviour, ie. if I tell you to look behind you, you will probably look behind you, even though it is 99% chance I am just messing with you. This is because it pays to be gullible, what if I didn't look behind me and then I got killed? There is an evolutionary advantage to being cautious and paranoid at times.
  • TheMadFool
    3.2k
    Perhaps it is because cynicism is a naive and natural state, and optimism is learned.ernestm

    As @luckswallowsall said your argument flies against accepted wisdom i.e. the wiser or more knowledgable the more cynical and pessimistic. It takes time to learn. A good example would be religion which seems to lose its grip on a person as more knowledge is acquired. In other words optimism is childish or, better still, you'll be hard pressed to find a cynical/pessimistic child.
  • ssu
    1.2k
    There is no school of philosophy about pessimism. Fate, yes. Suffering, yes. Depression, yes. Pessimism, no.ernestm
    There isn't?

    Well, even a philosophical school has to sell itself. The teachings have to interest someone and give an answer.

    Suffering fatalism that ends with an answer of overall pessimism would be cherished only by the person contemplating a suicide.
  • I like sushi
    902
    The empirical (evidence from cognitive neuroscience) shows VERY clearly that we’re actually wired to be overly optimistic - we have a bias toward optimism NOT pessimism.

    This is not merely a study that appears to show X to be so. I literally mean ALL human beings are ‘hard-wired’ to be optimistic.

    Here’s a stating point:

    https://www.academia.edu/7957545/The_Optimism_Bias_A_cognitive_neuroscience_perspective

    Note: Innate optimism has been know by psychologists for some time. I believe the study that solidified this psychological observation happened around 2 years ago? It gave conclusive evidence that we are ALL prewired to be overly optimistic and this was shown via MRI scans and neural networks we ALL possess.

    Basically, you’re wrong :) you can now move on to something else.
  • ernestm
    454
    thats very interesting. I must be an odd person. When I drop a piece of buttered bread, I always have that feeling of dread. In fact I heard it as an aphorism first, and hadnt noticed before, so, I cant actually agree with you that Im wrong.

    Maybe there are two types of people: those who gamble, and those who dont. I dont gamble, and I am naturally pessimistic. Gamblers are naturally optimistic.

    Just because someone has established an extrinsic bias to optimism in some cases, does not mean that other people are naturally pessimistic too, or pessimistic in other cases. But extrinsically observable events are also moderated by consciousness and do not necessarily reflect the true intrinsic state, which is a general criticism of all psychology experiments on what people feel.

    So we are both equally wrong, or equally right, whichever wets your whistle.
  • ernestm
    454
    Just because I am cynical does not mean that I necessarily fear something, for example-a lot of people use cynicism to combat fear, they believe that expecting the worse to happen can help prepare them for it to happen, thus no reason to be afraid.Grre

    I dont agree, sir, the less intellectual generally observe a shared sinking feeling in the quarter second before the bread hits the floor, and it is definitely a feeling.

    Empirical observation.
  • Joshs
    657
    Why is it true, if one drops a piece of buttered bread, there is always a feeling of dread that it will land butter-side down?ernestm
    .
    I don't know that dread is pessimism. In terms of cognitive-affective processes, it is connected with anxiety-fear, which functions cognitively as an ambivalence, a complexly structured affective assessment that is part hope, part disappointment. In fear, one moves rapidly back and forth between the anticipation of disappointment-pain and its avoidance. If one were confident that the worst would happen, dread and anxiety would not be the ruling affect, but rather sadness, depression, disappointment. The 'twinge' of dread is only possible because the event has not happened yet, and hope is battling against letdown. If the pessimist says ,after the fact, when the outcome is known and the dread has been replaced by actual letdown, 'I knew the worst would happen', then the pessimism inserted itself after the event, not during.
    I consider Kierkegaard to be more a philosopher of ambivalence than pessimism. I would say the same of Heidegger, who positioned angst and guilt as primordial , authentic affectivities.
    Heidegger would also argue that the pessimist and the skeptic are not fully understanding their own thinking, in that skepticism and doubt pre-suppose a larger enabling and validating framework of intelligibility within which doubting has its sense.
  • I like sushi
    902


    Just because someone has established an extrinsic bias to optimism in some cases, does not mean that other people are naturally pessimistic too, or pessimistic in other cases.

    It is not “some cases”. The science on this is solid. Humans have two arms, two eyes, two legs, a nose and are possess a neural network that makes them positively bias to optimism. All of those items are equally true. Basically we’re talking about something physiological.
  • thedeadidea
    98
    I'm not reading this entire thread... Google synthetic happiness and then look into the empirical evidence and consider why that might be an evolved trait as much as a cultural condition...

    Philosophy just can't argue out of its asshole anymore.

    The equivocation of what is understood better in technical terms to rhetorically indistinct naive optimism... Is the beginning, middle and end of the BS.
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