Pessimism and Optimism - Research Article from Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Religious and Philosophical Issues

Empiricism and Rationalism

A primary consideration in discussing optimism and pessimism is the definition and criteria of good and evil. Empiricists have generally adopted a hedonistic definition of good, and hedonism has frequently ended in pessimism: The universe seems not to be constituted to provide man with more pleasure than pain. But it has proved difficult to reduce normative judgments of value to the psychological measures of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, or satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Other criteria are also involved—for example, the conservation or destruction of life, the progress or decay of cultural institutions and values, human freedom and bondage (in various senses), and the just control of power.

While empiricism shows an inclination toward pessimism (and skepticism), rationalism operates with normative principles that have an affinity with affirmations of the identity of reality and goodness. Nevertheless, exponents of...

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This section contains 8,070 words
(approx. 27 pages at 300 words per page)
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Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Pessimism and Optimism from Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.
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