Margaret A. Bodena1

a1 University of Sussex

The optimist may be secretly envied, but he is publicly despised. His pronouncements are regarded as expressions of simple-minded blindness or as cynical propaganda. Optimism is not regarded as intellectually respectable. It was not always so: there have been times when optimism was not merely considered worthy of rational argument, but was widely accepted by thinking men. Now, however, we react with a growing embarrassment to passages such as these:

The time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free men who know no other master but their reason;… All the causes that contribute to the perfection of the human race, all the means that ensure it must by their very nature exercise a perpetual influence and always increase their sphere of action … the perfectibility of man is indefinite.