61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
For optimistic pessimists everywhere,
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)This is the first Roger Scruton book I've read but I've always found his newspaper articles amusing so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm glad I did though I found the start fairly hard going due to his style of writing. I wonder how long he took to write the book - it really builds up speed after the half way point and his writing really begins to flow when he hits his stride in his central argument.
What is he arguing? Well He describes two ways of viewing the world - pessimistic and optimistic. Pessimists distrust change and prefer tradition & what has been proven to work. Obviously another word for this view would be "conservative" but without the connotations of the UK political party. Against this view is optimism - where change can only make things better. Against optimism, Scruton identifies 7 fallacies and illustrates each through a wide span of culture and history. For example, Scruton argues there is a best case fallacy - where any plan is only evaluated as if everything goes right (and ignoring what could go wrong). Scruton argues our current banking problems are due to this fallacy.
In the last third of the book, Scruton argues for a defence of truth (and how "optimists" twist & hide the truth) and causes of optimism for pessimists everywhere. Scruton is certainly not dogmatic - optimism has its place but it should not be the default position nor should change be made for changes sake.
I'm giving it four stars out of five as a book well worth the time and effort. Be warned though - it's bound to really annoy the politically correct.