For the purposes of a philosophical study I am seeking a framework that would regard humans fairly unsympathetically, both individually and en masse, but which is not in itself essentially pessimistic. I am sure that there must be established frameworks along these lines.
I am trying to unpack the philosophy emergent in the writings of the American writer of 'weird fiction', HP Lovecraft (Wikipedia entry here). He seems torn. On the one hand he seems convinced that the universe is serenely indifferent to all living creatures, including humanity. On the other, some of his characters are portrayed as labouring (often unwittingly) to repay the sins of their ancestors. In those cases, the universe seems to recognise not only humanity, but specific individuals.
If these tendencies are to be reconciled, it seems that humanity must be acknowledged as having a distinctive cognitive perspective in at least having the capacity to address the world in a way that animals cannot, and this also appears to confer some degree of moral duty (thus arguing against Existential Nihilism: here, the capacity for judgment brings responsibility). At the same time, part of this address seems to require that humans who can recognise this position should keep it in proportion, and understand that none of this brings with it any special rights: the fact that we can recognise the absurdism of it all does not grant us any means of getting round it.
In day-to-day practicality, this appears to amount to the ludicrous, self-deluding futility of seeking meaning and significance in chasing a pay rise or buying a hat. Such acts positively advertise an unwillingness to get things in perspective.
From my literary background I would associate this kind of perspective as sharing some features of Romanticism, and some from the Gothic Revival (personally, I regard both of those as being different angles on much the same thing). There is something of absurdism in this. There is also some resonance here with Taoism.
I'll sketch some basic ideas, while trying not to constrain things too much.
The world is what it is, and is therefore in some sense 'good': it cannot help being straightforwardly 'honest'. Avalanches, mushrooms, carnivores, forest fires, ice ages, savannahs... all of these things participate in an ongoing, self-regulating balance (which also encompasses evolution, continental drift, etc.).
This does not require nature-worship. The core would be something much more like a realistic sensitivity to and appreciation of natural systems. Nature does not care about us, any more than it 'cares' about bees or pebbles. In effect, worshipping nature would be more a self-aggrandising declaration of our own supposed importance than anything else.
Humans compulsively impose complex ideological structures upon this network of natural entities and events, to justify activity that typically limits its views and objectives in practice to social concerns (often preoccupied with the locus of social power). We spend a lot of time and effort on initiatives to resist and/or control natural systems, not always sensibly (e.g. building skyscrapers on fault lines).
Individual humans expend a surprising amount of energy upon self-satisfaction and self-flattery. It is much easier to justify a varied accumulation of artistic items, than an extensive wardrobe or a prestigious but stressful and destructive job. Many social mechanisms are geared merely towards persuading individuals that in some cloudy way they are valued and respected.
Any suggestions? Of course this general line of thought cannot be new, but I am not currently aware of any particularly well-defined and structured statement of it.