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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 18, Issue 2, July 2017

War and Moral Psychology

Suzanne Dovi
Pages 223-244

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.

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