The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope

From The Telegraph:

Scrutonstory_1655893f One of the more elegant, and accurate, answers to the question “why are you a Tory?” is “because I am a pessimist”. Tories do not believe in the perfectibility of the human condition. They deal with human nature as it is. Despite often having a determined individualism, they recognise the superior wisdom of institutions and the lessons of tradition. That, in essence, is what Roger Scruton’s latest book is about. It does what it says on the cover: it describes how useful pessimism as a cast of mind is in times when we appear to be ruled by people under the spell of various fallacies of false hope. Worse than that, the effect of other people’s optimism (and I, like Scruton, use that term in a wider than usual sense) on the rest of us is often negative and sometimes downright destructive.

He takes us through various fallacies of false hope, showing how they cause damage. One is the “born free” fallacy, which began with Rousseau. As Scruton says: “We are not born free. Freedom is something we acquire. And we acquire it through obedience.” He goes on to describe our failing education system as one benighted by this fallacy ever since the Plowden report of 1967, which preceded the creation of “education” as a specialist field of study, populated by “experts” who had little or no classroom experience, but plenty of theories: prime among which was Plowden’s “‘proven’ conclusion that education is a process of free exploration and self-development, in which the teacher plays the role not of expert, example or authority, but of adviser, playmate and friend”. Scruton argues that the logical outcome of this nonsense is that if there is failure, neither the pupil or the teacher is to blame for it, and therefore the state should continue to invest in failure, which is probably society’s fault.

More here.