Sunday, April 22, 2007

I'm so optimistic that...

I've finally gotten around to feeling that I have enough spare time to finally dig into reading the responses to John Brockman's Edge question for 2007: What are you optimistic about? I initially figured that I would spend maybe ten to twenty hours reading the material and would be too focused to have time to blog about it. That may still turn out to be the case, but the very first phrase of the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first response was simply too... too... "out there" to not blog about it. That first response is by Professor Daniel Dennett, reknowned atheist who of course rants again about religion in his response entitled "The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion", who opens his response with the words "I'm so optimistic that I expect..." The words that follow are not as relevant, since the issue is the nature of optimism itself.

Is optimism really on a sliding scale spectrum or is it a binary, all or nothing state of mind?

My contention is that pessimism and skepticism are on a sliding scale spectrum, but that optimism by its very nature is the complete absence of pessimism and skepticism, or the willingness to sent aside and look beyond all concerns and issues, to try to see what is beyond it all, to sense a vision of where you can go, regardless of what obstacles may lie along the way. Optimism is a focus on the end of the journey, not the journey itself.

Now, whether the Edge respondents share my interpretation of optimism remains to be seen, but I'll read the Edge Question responses from the perspective of my model of optimism.

I would suggest that in the context of optimism, "so" is redundant, kind of like saying that you are 110% optimistic. As a matter of sensible style, and to avoid being characterized as more enamored of rhetoric than meaning, I would suggest that the phrase "I'm so optimistic that I expect..." be replaced with "As an optimistic, I expect..."

The whole point of this post is really about the role of blogging and reading, or about blogging as a medium for criticism of written material. Can one truly read without criticizing? Can one criticize without blogging about it? Is blogging an effective aid to understanding what we read?

-- Jack Krupansky

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