3 min read · Aug 20th · Introducing a new weekly column by Nigel Warburton, one of the world’s most-read philosophers.
If you want the bleak truth about what your future will very probably be like, go with being a pessimistic philosopher. But if you want to get things done, prevent things turning out too badly, and increase your level of happiness, don’t stare into the abyss too long – be an optimist, live a life which may turn out to have been based on illusion, and hope for the best.
If most athletes weren’t unrealistically optimistic about their chances of success, they’d never put in the training hours that result in a lucky few of them reaching the Olympics.
We systematically mis-predict what will happen in our lives. Unless you suffer from mild depression, chances are you will believe that good things are just around the corner for you. Those with mild depression are more realistic than this, and less prone to this sort of wishful thinking: they predict their futures more accurately. Those with severe depression, however, are unrealistically pessimistic about what will transpire.
~12 min read · Jan 26th · I travelled the world and trawled the archive to unearth the hidden lessons from history’s most brilliant people
if you seek the truth, consult the original primary sources; the rest is simply hearsay
The secret to her success? Elizabeth not only read books voraciously (three hours a day was her wont) but also people. She read, she studied, she observed, and she kept her mouth shut
Thus, a last class takeaway applicable to all: be on guard if there’s a genius in your midst. If you work for a genius, you might be berated or abused, or you could lose your job. If someone close to you is a genius, you might find that his or her work or passion always comes first. Yet to those so abused, made miserable or redundant, exploited or ignored, sincere thanks is in order for ‘taking one for the team’, the team being all of us who subsequently benefit from the greater cultural good that ‘your’ genius has done. To paraphrase the writer Edmond de Goncourt: almost no one loves the genius until he or she is dead. But then we do, because now life is better.