Volume 18, Issue 2, July 2017
War and Moral Psychology
Despairing about War
The Democratic Limits of Pessimism
The realities of modern war provide lots of reasons for pessimism and despair. In this article, I identify ways pessimism cannot only undercut the types of political action needed to end war but also conflict with central democratic norms, e.g. equality and political autonomy. Contrary to the growing literature on pessimism, which stresses its resources for negotiating the moral chaos and disenchantment of modernity, I highlight the democratic costs of relying on pessimism to stop war. To do this, I clarify the meaning of despair, identify two sources of hope, and distinguish three different types of despair.