The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope, By Roger Scruton

We're all gonna die (eventually)!

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The Independent Culture

Many years ago, the late Auberon Waugh lambasted the change in English law that would allow wives to accuse their husbands of rape.

The length and breadth of the country, he argued, "nervous virgins on their wedding nights" would be crying rape against their new spouses.

Leaving aside the desperate hope that Waugh didn't really believe most women are either virgins or nervous on their wedding nights, I can't help wondering if Roger Scruton would class such remarks as those of a "scrupulous pessimist" or an "unscrupulous pessimist". The distinction between the two is important: unscrupulous pessimism is the kind that raises fears we're all going to die of mad cow disease; scrupulous pessimism recognises constraints and realises that there's little we can do to effect change.

Scruton is an admirably clear writer and merges complex philosophical concepts, personal experience and cultural awareness with ease. He is a hostage to his conservative opinions, though. Just as you are beginning to consider the merits of his argument, he lets rip at one of his favourite bogeymen – comprehensive education or climate change. And while he abhors the dreadfulness of revolution, whether Chinese, French or Russian, he fails even to consider the American one. Because it was organised by scrupulous pessimists? Surely not.