Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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(1,421 words)

1. Introduction

The terminological pair of optimism and pessimism, attested since the mid-18th century, in general terms denotes attitudes respectively positive and negative towards the world (World view). In early modern Europe, the terms referred to two extremes, initially with an ironic overtone: optimism seeing the real world as the best of all possible worlds, pessimism taking a derogatory view of it as the worst.


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Weichenhan, Michael, “Optimism/pessimism”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 30 September 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_COM_025023>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20200721

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