Should we adopt depressive realism?

More realistic pessimists

Depressive realism is the balance praised by political scientist Juliane Marie Schreiber. It takes up an agreed discourse: pessimists and their attitude towards the world are the most realistic vision. They are critical, empathetic, not very sensitive to bias. While optimists, always positive and in a good mood, overestimate themselves and blind themselves to problems.

Happiness in the Hereafter

I confess that I do not understand where JM Schreiber found that the majority of people think the opposite. It is based on the idea of a contemporary “Cult of Happiness”, certainly omnipresent, but does Schreiber know that the majority of cults concern the inaccessible? No one has ever visited Heaven, but this does not prevent the faithful from gathering in churches and mosques.

In fact, the rise of the Cult of Happiness seems to be linked to its growing distancing from its purpose. When I listen to my contemporaries, their positivist impulses belong only to the show. While their daily discourse is a carpet of recriminations. It is on it that they kneel to launch prayers to Happiness, no more visible than God.

Does the inaccessibility of happiness come from an excess of optimism?

Plausible reason. The pessimist is advantaged: he accesses happiness more often, because he does not expect it. By setting one’s usual mood to ‘negative’, the peaks of ‘positive’ are more dazzling.

Indeed, a majority of pessimists seem satisfied, while we would expect them to be depressed, to contemplate a perpetually degraded reality. This is the case for those who do not receive any gratuity. But others see them fall like nuggets of bliss, effortlessly, tasting their authenticity. The positivist, on the other hand, makes continual efforts to rework his idyllic vision of the world, which regularly threatens to crack. He exhausts himself to maintain his level of happiness. Stress is for him.

But I defend pessimism no more than primary positivism, both manipulating our sensibilities. It is not to experience one’s emotions, but to put oneself in a situation to experience them favorably. Intelligence maneuvers emotion.

The moment and the future

JM Schreiber quotes a seductive motto of Gramsci: “It is necessary to combine the pessimism of intelligence with the optimism of the will“. Let’s understand it correctly: the will is the decision, and its driving force is emotion. Intelligence is forecasting. Their temporal dimensions are very different, and this is where Schreiber’s main error lies.

It is impossible to attribute a mood to intelligence, whose role is to model the present world to guess its future. Not a single model. All possibilities! Cheerful or dark, what does it matter? Intelligence is asked to multiply them, not to declare them optimistic or pessimistic.

This is the coloring given by mood, an essential factor in the decision. It makes it possible to decide at any time between the models. Because often reason alone would not succeed. Many are plausible. You have to choose.

There is optimism in the maneuver

Intelligence is the creation of all time lines, the will maneuvers the switches. I believe the will is naturally optimistic, otherwise it would not take any decision. The true pessimist does not dare to maneuver. Those who declare themselves in this way are for the most part people who consider all the possibilities, without privileging the worst.

In will also comes the notion of continuity. If we easily switched between optimism and pessimism, intelligence would have a hard time stabilizing its future, handicapped by mood swings.

Our definitive motto will therefore be: Let’s not combine mood with intelligence, they get in the way! Mood is in itself a positive force for deciding, whether optimistic or pessimistic. What weakens it is to switch too quickly between the two.


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