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Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit
Joshua Foa Dienstag

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"Dienstag's gallery of incompatibles proves that pessimists can't be made to march in step, even as a coherent philosophical tradition. And the other thing that this densely argued, but always lively and engaging, book successfully proves is that pessimism works best when it drops the arguments in its favor and settles for bitter laughter."--Lawrence Klepp, Weekly Standard

"These studies are quite insightful. A critic might object that, in attempting to discern the limits of meliorism, pessimism fails to recognize that those limits themselves may be discerned only in hindsight. Pessimism might respond that this is itself another instance of those limits. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"Dienstag manages to make Nietzschean pessimism seem attractive--even to optimists."--Raymond B. Marcin, Review of Politics

"Dienstag's . . . book is not just a study in political theory but a challenge to its contemporary practice, and for this he deserves our gratitude. . . . [B]old, original and admirable."--Ryan Patrick Hanley, American Political Science Review

"Pessimism was a very enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who is remotely interested in the theme. The author's use of aphorisms at the end of the book was especially stirring, as it was clear that the author was enjoying his subject. Dienstag's work is creative and learned, and even with the critical remarks above, is well argued and will hopefully open up a space where more research into this marginalized tradition will arise."--Michael Bruce, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"There is much to admire in [this] book, especially [its] ambitious scope and original choice of characters. . . . Dienstag's book is a balanced appraisal and a nuanced endorsement of a long tradition in modern thought, that attempts to reframe the history of political thought so that pessimism becomes one of its major strands."--Aurelian Craiutu, European Journal of Political Theory


"It seems that with each passing day the faith in progress becomes less sustainable, less believable, whether one consults environmental, social, or political data. The pessimistic tradition, having confronted the human situation without relying upon this faith, affords us a diverse wealth of resources for going on and even for doing worthy things. Dienstag justifies his dramatic claim that we have been ignoring the pessimistic tradition to our own impoverishment. But his articulation of this tradition, as befits the pessimistic spirit, is provisional and an invitation to others to join in its exploration. There is no other book quite like Dienstag's."--Melissa A. Orlie, University of Illinois

"I think this book is successful in what it sets out to do. It is extremely ambitious: it seeks to recast European political thought over the last 300 years and to make that recasting appealing to contemporary readers. I concur with most of the analyses and in all cases they are creative and enlightening."--Tracy Strong, University of California, San Diego

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File created: 4/21/2017

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