What is "optimism?"People say: "Be optimistic."  I'm wondering what that means. "Once a man was falling off the thirteenth story of a high building. At each window the people seeing him falling...

What is "optimism?"

People say: "Be optimistic."  I'm wondering what that means.

"Once a man was falling off the thirteenth story of a high building. At each window the people seeing him falling shouted in alarm. The man, falling, replied to their alarm: "I am OK."

3 Answers

ophelious's profile pic

ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Optimism comes in several flavors:

  1. "Hope for the best." An optimist, in any given situation, will hope for (and anticipate) the best outcome based on their actions.  "It will all work out in the end."  "I'm sure we are going to win."  "Look on the bright side..."
  2. "Make the best of it." No matter what is going on in the outside world, a person should try to see the good in everything going on.  This is more of an internal optimism that operates independently of external forces.

There are potentially unhealthy variations on optimism:

  1. Overoptimism--this is an overreaching feeling that things will go your way even when evidence might point otherwise.  This is also known as the "Valence Effect," the tendency of people to overestimate the chances that something good will come your way.

Your example with the man falling from the window demonstrates this quality.  There is no logical reason to be optimistic while plunging to one's death.

Contrast these with pessimism, which is the opposite phenomenon.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Optimism is an attitude, an attitude of always looking at the brighter side of things. Sometimes it is rather naive or forced to believe that this world is the best possible world. At bottom it is a religious attitude like believing that God is good, just as Browning observed that God is in Heaven, and everything will be set right.

But think of Micawber in Dickens's 'David Copperfield'. Plunged in a pool of debt, and even boxed up in the Debtors' Prison, Micawber could go on harping the same iterative phrase, 'something 'll turn up'.

Simple and unqualified optimism does not help in real situations. Often optimism may take the shape of a mockery of hope or faith, for example in Samuel Beckett's famous play, 'Waiting for Godot', where the two tramps--Lucky and Pozzo--go on waiting for one Godot who never comes. Are they really optimistic of the arrival of Godot? Or do they mock uncritical / unrealistic optimism?

santhasagaram's profile pic

santhasagaram | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

people are very eager to see the positive side of evrything they meet or face in their lives.quite by accident,if they face something awkward,they will be in utter confusion and chaos mentally,and the turbulence lead them to cypher-utter zero!

they can not be called optimistic.

an optimist will be like the man falling off a the high building.he knows that he will be no more,as he reaches the ground.but he says:"i am ok."

this is the climax of sublime optimism.