coromandal


the fallacy of hope
September 13, 2010, 2:30 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,

From a review of Scruton’s book The Uses of Pessimism, here are seven sources of false hope.  Scruton’s list of fallacies go to the heart of our inability to couch pessimism in a way that becomes useful; as a check to delusional thinking.  The fallacies make a sketch of a disturbing sociopath:  always up, perfectly isolated and selfish, always right, paranoid, triumphalist, autocratic, fatalistic, antisocial and maybe a little stupid.

In our political culture, hope is topical, false hope is legion, and pessimism may be on the rise.  A president wrote a book on hope, the pursuit of happiness at any cost remains the prime engine of the body politic, and despite jeremiads, we will maybe never accept the proper uses of pessimism.  But what if, by some miracle, we did?  Can these proper uses make us whole again?

Here is a list of the fallacies:

1. a tendency to always look on the bright side.

2. a belief that freedom is hampered by law.

3. an unwillingness to countenance refutation.

4. a belief that failure in one human quarter is directly connected to success in another.

5. an inclination to impose solutions rather than letting them evolve over time.

6. the idea that human history has an endpoint.

7. the tendency to assume agreeable concepts such as liberty and equality are mutually reinforcing.

And here is the excerpt:

Hope, especially religious hope, is an important part of human existence. But it is also, argues Scruton, the “final scourge”. “False hope” isn’t just a false friend; it is humanity’s most implacable enemy.

Scruton identifies seven fallacies that he sees as underwriting false hope. Put briefly, these translate into a tendency to always look on the bright side, a belief that freedom is hampered by law, an unwillingness to countenance refutation, a belief that failure in one human quarter is directly connected to success in another, an inclination to impose solutions rather than letting them evolve over time, the idea that human history has an endpoint, and the tendency to assume agreeable concepts such as liberty and equality are mutually reinforcing.

In the final chapters, Scruton suggests these inclinations may be ineradicable, having evolved in response to particular dangers in hunter-gatherer societies.

However — and this is his central point — in a world where such dangers have ceased to afflict most people, the mental strategies we developed to cope with them have themselves become a danger. The future needs to be tamed, but our attempts to tame it end up destroying us. There is a lot to be said for Scruton’s argument, especially when it comes to the ill-effects of top-down thinking in the political sphere. For he is surely right to say that in the area of human rights, for example, the British model of slow negotiation between competing interests was greatly preferable to Robespierre’s “despotism of liberty”.

/…/

resources:

book:  The Uses of Pessimism:  And the Danger of False Hope, by Roger Scruton

Reviewed by Richard King, Do Worry and Don’t Always be Happy, The Australian

Advertisements

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: