Pessimism is the philosophy that can never crown itself king. To be king, to be master of every circumstance — that is what pessimism teaches as unattainable. Whatever modesty they profess, whatever authority they disclaim, optimistic philosophies secretly find this impossible to accept, which is why pessimism has found it necessary to appear before them as a jester.

— Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit


Another lesson from critics of the idea of progress is that one may dispense with optimism without succumbing to nihilism. Schopenhauer, Burckhardt, Henry Adams and Solzhenitsyn elaborated pessimistic visions of history without completely giving up on life. Schopenhauer, who taught that life was a curse, nevertheless had values, as evidenced my his moral and aesthetic philosophies. Burckhardt and Adams likewise had interests in the arts, and they shared with one another an interest in historical study. On top of these interests, Burckhardt found value in teaching, and Adams cherished his personal relationships. For his part, Solzhenitsyn turned to religious devotion. Their pessimistic visions of history led these authors to resist seductive calls for permanent and universal political solutions to the perennial problems of humankind, but critics of the idea of progress did not give up the search for personal mindsets and behaviors that would guide them through life.

— Matthew Slaboch, A Road to Nowhere: The Idea of Progress and Its Critics