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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
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