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philosophical opinion or doctrine that evil predominates over good; the opposite of optimism. Systematic forms of pessimism may be found in philosophy and religion. In religion Buddhism and Hinduism pessimistically appraise the world, while Christianity's pessimism is more restricted. Numerous philosophers have been pessimistic, notably Arthur SchopenhauerSchopenhauer, Arthur
, 1788–1860, German philosopher, b. Danzig (now Gdansk). The bias of his own temperament and experience was germinal to the development of his celebrated philosophy of pessimism, which he presented with such clarity and skill as to gain eventual
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 in the 19th cent. and Martin HeideggerHeidegger, Martin
, 1889–1976, German philosopher. As a student at Freiburg, Heidegger was influenced by the neo-Kantianism of Heinrich Rickert and the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl.
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 in the 20th cent.


See also Cynicism, Skepticism.
Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary
or Martha Burke, 1852–1903) frontierswoman; mannish prophetess of doom. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 71]
no credence ever given to her truthful prophecies of doom. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 51]
City of Dreadful Night, The
expresses a passionate faith in pessimism as the only sensible philosophy. [Br. Poetry: James Thomson The City of Dreadful Night in Benét, 202]
old man who deplores aging, aridity, and spiritual decay and despairs of civilization. [Br. Poetry: Benét, 391]
Gloomy Gus
one with a pessimistic outlook on the world. [Am. Usage: Misc.]
(535–475 B.C.) “Weeping Philosopher”; grieved over man’s folly. [Gk. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 1146]
always prophesied misfortune for King Ahab. [O.T.: I Kings 22:8]
Murphy’s Law “If
anything can go wrong, it will.” [Am. Culture: Wallechinsky, 480]
Schopenhauer, Arthur
(1788–1860) German philosopher known for philosophy of pessimism. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 2447]


Philosophy, Religion
1. the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good
2. the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man's sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence
References in periodicals archive ?
What distinguishes Bulgarian pessimism from the garden-variety strain, however, is that Bulgarians are gloomy regardless of the economic situation in their country.
Both pessimism and optimism, according to Dienstag, trace their origins to a transformation in time-consciousness --a shift to a distinctively linear conception of time--that occurred in the early modern period.
If the antidote to Niebuhr's pessimism lies in the artful application of religion to culture, each of the essays here can help readers appreciate the societal benefits of this work.
With growing pessimism, he painted bizarre scenes populated with outlandish creatures and monsters engaged in witchcraft, cannibalism, and carnage.
What we have to do is overcome the pessimism people have.
The complementary parallelism of macrocosm and microcosm is turned into the antithesis of optimism and pessimism, humanism and skepticism.
Camp can have varying degrees of therapeutic impact on this pessimism and resultant passivity.
There are two major reasons for the current pessimism, the first concerning the political situation.
In the Harvard sample, pessimism at age 25 predicted more severe types of physical illness (a full range of disabling and nondisabling disorders was tracked) between the ageds of 45 and 60.
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Ever the optimist, Cowen smartly suggests that even pessimists further cultural process: "A consistent optimistic attitude should place cultural pessimism within a cornucopia of modern achievement.