Optimism, possibilism and pragmatism
My wife insists that I'm an optimist, just because I don't believe everything is going to shit. But I'm not. Wikipedia, my go-to source of all knowledge says this about Optimism
Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, ultimately means one expects the best possible outcome from any given situation. This is usually referred to in psychology as dispositional optimism.
I don't qualify. Not even close. Unless you define "the best possible outcome from any given situation" in a really, really weird way: like "the best possible outcome is the one that happened, its happening removes all others from the realm of possible." That's just stupid.
If you don't play games with definitions I don't believe you are ever going to get the best possible outcome. Think about it. Most outcomes are the solely the result of the working of the laws of nature, not the decisions of people. Nature is always doing experiments, throwing dice, rewarding winners and killing losers. In the end the lucky winners survive. It's not my idea of a best possible outcome, though I will admit that it seems to "work." I'm here, so it was a pretty good outcome for me. But there are lots of possible people what never got that far, and it wasn't too good for them.
So much for nature giving us the best possible outcome. Let's look at situations where people make decisions. Imagine the best and wisest people ("the best possible people") always make "the best possible decision" with "the best possible information." Some choices will probably lead to good outcomes, some will probably lead to bad outcomes and for some choices the likelihood of any given outcome is unknown. But it's still probability, not certainty, so right out of the box, even if you make the best choice that has the best probability of the best outcome, nature can make a choice that screws up all your best laid plans. And will, because nature doesn't give a shit.
But it's even worse. If the decision is in the hands of a human being, it's likely to be someone else, not me. And if that's the case, it's likely that the someone else is an asshole. Or was appointed by an asshole. Or elected by assholes. Because they're all around, and they outnumber us. Assholes even have their own Wikipedia page: ssholes.
So if the decision maker is not an asshole they willl still has one or more communities of assholes to satisfy--or not offend too much. That limits the decision-maker's set of possible choices to those that are acceptable to some group of assholes. And given the prevalence and the power of assholes, I believe that the likelihood that that choice will lead to the best possible outcome is near zero.
This is true even if I am making the decision, because, you know, I'm kind of an asshole. I'm one even when I'm trying not to be one. Which is not all the time. I believe I'm I believe the research that says that every brain--even mine--is flawed in fundamental ways. Wikipedia's got a whole page that enumerates them and dozens and dozens of pages explaining them. So even if I make the best choice I know how to make, taking into consideration everything that I know about my broken thinking process, I will still not make the best possible choice. Like I said, I'm an asshole.
So I am not optimistic. But I am resolutely possibilistic and pragmatic. If something good can possibly happen then I believe that it can happen, even if I don't think it's likely. Just so long as it's not impossible. Because believing in a good outcome is generally better than resigning yourself to the world coming apart.
If I can influence the outcome then I will decide to what degree I can influence it, decide what effort I should put into influencing it, and how I might best influence it. Beyond that I will hope for the best, and not waste more time on it.
Hoping for the best does not make me optimistic. Just pragmatic.
I'm going to die, and from my own, narrow, selfish point of view that's among the worst possible outcomes for me. But I don't spend lots of time on it--other than making bad jokes. Life will go on without me. Given that I'll be dead, that's the best possible outcome. So maybe I'm an optimist, after all.