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Published 4 years ago with 5 Comments

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  • staxofmax

    First, there is ample evidence from psychological research that (most) people are prone to an optimism bias and are subject to other psychological traits that lead them to underestimate the amount of bad in life [4]. We thus have excellent reason for distrusting most people’s cheery assessments of how well their lives are going.

    I can't wrap my head around this mindset. In my opinion nothing is objectively bad or objectively good; we interpret things as being bad or good as we assign our views and value systems upon them. If someone gives a subjective assessment of their own life and finds it worth living, who is anyone to tell them that they're wrong? They are the authors of their own life and can ascribe whatever meanings they want to it!

    If they find insufficient value in their own lives then that's a shame, but it's their prerogative. But to think that lack of value is a universal condition is some seriously deluded thinking.

    • AdelleChattre

      I do get what you’re saying, but there is another way to think of it. Optimists and cynics are all well and good, but no one’s looking out for the stoics but the stoic. They know full well what those others prefer to see, but more than that, they permit themselves long looks at what those others tend to avoid. For good, or ill, they accept the inevitability of things they cannot control right up to and including their death. They work backward from that acceptance to what meaning they intend to find in the meantime. To a stoic, an optimist’s casually upbeat account of life’s progress might not be so much wrong as blithely short-sighted. Much the way a cynic’s in-the-moment attitude might not reflect the big picture. Something about Anti-Natalism strikes me as stoic. Strikes me as Captain-Bringdown gloominess, too, but I would expect it’s a flavor of stoicism.

      • spaceghoti

        I'm not sure I agree with that characterization of stoicism. A stoic isn't necessarily a pure pragmatist with no interest in optimism. Marcus Aurelius strove to do the best with circumstances as he found them rather than obsessing over what he couldn't have (ironic for a man who aspired to be a priest and was disappointed to be a Roman emperor). To be the best person you can be requires something of an optimistic outlook, seeking the best possible outcome and striving to achieve it. When his wife and best friend threw a coup in his absence he fast-marched his army back to the capitol not to deliver righteous judgment but so he could express his forgiveness of them. He wrote that he was most disappointed that he never got the chance since they committed suicide before he could arrive. Aurelius struck me as a man who didn't let optimism blind him from reality, but used it as a guide for what he wanted to achieve.

        • AdelleChattre (edited 4 years ago)

          Fair enough. Can’t claim to know enough, or to’ve lived enough, to understand stoicism as anything other than Pop Stoicism. That said, seems to me that what you mean by Marcus’ ‘optimism’ above might be, coldly and analytically, described as the wisdom to expect and accept Providence as well as Fate. That might not be optimism at all, which could more easily mean focusing on the good and ignoring the bad. Marcus’s stoicism might’ve been in his knowing about, reasoning with, enduring despite and living through those things.

          You can’t take my word for it, though. I seem to be more at home with ideas like Reddit karma than loftier ideas like Instant Karma, or some other, older version of Karma that may’ve come up in class a couple of times.

  • Triseult

    I'm profoundly fascinated by anti-natalism/realism/nihilism, although deep down I don't identify with the position. If you want to explore the topic further, I recommend Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror, which has a voice quite similar to the character of "Rust" Cohle in True Detective.

    It's a fascinating, challenging read.

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