Pessimism is a mental attitude. Pessimists anticipate undesirable outcomes from a given situation, which is generally referred to as situational pessimism, or believe that undesirable things are going to happen to them in life more than desirable ones. Pessimists also tend to focus on the negatives of life in general or a given situation. The most common example of this phenomenon is the "Is the glass half empty or half full?" situation. In this situation a pessimist is said to see the glass as half empty while an optimist is said to see the glass as half full. Throughout history, the pessimistic disposition has had effects on all major areas of thinking.[1]

Philosophical pessimism is the related idea that views the world in a strictly anti-optimistic fashion. This form of pessimism is not an emotional disposition as the term commonly connotes. Instead, it is a philosophy or worldview that directly challenges the notion of progress and what may be considered the faith-based claims of optimism. Philosophical pessimists are often existential nihilists believing that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. Their responses to this condition, however, are widely varied and often life-affirming.


The term pessimism derives from the Latin word pessimus meaning 'the worst'. It was first used by Jesuit critics of Voltaire's 1759 novel 'Candide, ou l'Optimisme'. Voltaire was satirizing the philosophy of Leibniz who maintained that this was the 'best (optimum) of all possible worlds'. In their attacks on Voltaire, the Jesuits of the Revue de Trévoux accused him of pessimisme.[2]

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