Thacker’s cosmic pessimism is the elevation of the “worst” to the sphere of the universal; yet every instance of an ascent is relative –in order for something to ascend, it must do so in relation to something else.
Something must stay at ground level by which the ascension may be experienced at all. When “worst” becomes cosmic, universal, and total – one’s entire plane of vision is experienced as a corresponding descent, and thus everything sinks into its proper and natural place.
Pessimism, to the extent it may be considered a definitive philosophy at all, is always incomplete. At bottom, pessimism is constituted in a value judgment. But judgments in and of the world are always fleeting, always illusory, and always up for re-interpretation. A judgment about what “is” in the instant will not necessarily correspond to what “is” in the next; for just as that which is given in immediacy only “is” within the structural confines of eternal becoming, and as quickly as it “is” it passes through to it “was.”
Thus, the experience of being in lived-time is a constant interpretive exercise. For the pessimist, what is “worst” now in the moment need not necessarily be the “worst” in the next, and so on and so forth. In this manner, pessimism is an attunement to the negative possibility of the world.
If anxiety exists at the crossroad between being and non-being, where does depression lie? A phenomenological account of depression would resemble a submersion into non-being, a perpetual fall into the dark abyss. The intersection between depression and pessimism is profuse weariness. For the depressive is weary of being; the pessimist of temporal consciousness –the synthesis of which becomes the most noxious sickness imaginable. At the juncture of living lifeless, the self becomes its complete awareness.
What previously remained concealed, and thus made being possible in the first place, now comes to the fore amid the backdrop of a world cast in infinite shades of gray. Both closing off and opening at the same time… becoming depressed is simultaneous abundance and dearth – life overflowing like a broken down septic system. Thus, a depressive mood is never the result of a deficiency – but rather the natural consequent of a deluge followed by drowning. Suicide becomes not a rejection of being; but a giving in to being.
The very fact that Schopenhauer’s pessimism did not extend beyond morality is what fundamentally separates the latter’s tragic pessimism from Nietzsche’s Dionysian pessimism. Schopenhauer’s pessimism was both factual and evaluative; while Nietzsche’s pessimism of strength was only factual. The crux of Schopenhauer’s pessimism was a resounding denial of life; for Nietzsche, life is something to be affirmed. For my part, I prefer Schopenhauer over Nietzsche, for no reason other than pure disenchantment.
Psychologists often categorize excessively pessimistic thinking as a form of cognitive distortion, the result of some “trick” that our mind plays on us to convince us that something is what it isn’t, or isn’t what it really is. In turn, the psychologist offers a variety of rational responses to each mode of distorted thinking.
But a distortion is always understood as a deviation from some “norm.” But in reality, to what extent is a norm nothing more than a widely accepted distortion? To what degree is being human a rational endeavor at all? All essentialist thinking is doomed to commit the same error in judgment in this very fashion. Appropriating a common set of features, characteristics or qualities and bundling them together under the banner of a “norm” obfuscates and closes off all other possibilities of being. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree that pessimism is in fact a cognitive distortion; but no more and no less so than all other perspectives and attunements to being-in-the-world.