Why having to choose between pessimism and optimism?

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How easy it is be stuck in some kind of apathetic pessimism these days. Falling into the trap of a bleak appreciation of things has become the new norm, as enough bad news are flooding our social feeds to make us want to hibernate in spring. Of course, dramatic things are taking place both at the local and global levels. From the rise of nationalism across Europe to the situation in Syria and the first moves of Trump’s presidency – you name it. All of this is sending shivers down our spines, and for the right reasons. But Philosophie Magazine was asking in March whether it is possible to be well in a world that isn’t (“Peut-on aller bien dans un monde qui va mal”) – I want to ask, when has the world ever been OK?

Not only does this kind of positioning seem to obscure the ongoing atrocities that have accompanied humanity across the ages, but it also reveals something of the nature of our reflection on things and of the illusion that lies at the core of it: that the world is something that can be ordered, unified, and that any event that does not go towards this unity is bad, ill-conceived, a cause of desperation and apathy. As French philosopher Michel Foucault said, “my point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is danger­ous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apa­thy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism. I think that the ethico-political choice we have to make every day is to determine which is the main danger.” Continue reading

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