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Source: Benatar, D. The Human Predicament (2017 1 edn). p. 206. Footnote 4 on p. 245.

  Third, pessimism has sometimes been dismissed as a “macho” attitude. The idea is that the pessimist is saying, “I am tough enough to see the facts,”4 [see beneath] but “you optimists are weaklings.” This charge is tendentious. Calling an attitude macho is pejorative because it implies bravado, rather than courage or mere intellectual honesty. Thus, the question is whether pessimism can plausibly be described as displaying bravado. I do not think it can. After all, pessimism bemoans the terrible human predicament and is sensitive to the vast amounts of suffering in the world. Using the word “macho” to describe the view of sensitive lamenters sounds like a clear misapplication of the word. The word seems much more suitably applied to a view that pretends everything is just fine (when it is not), and a fortiori when it is applied to those who think that pessimists should stop whining.

[Footnote] 4. Susan Neiman (“On Morality in the 21st Century,” Philosophy Bites interview) said:

Pessimism is an attitude that may look brave… . There are certain people who propose it with a rather macho stance … [they say] “I’m tough enough to see the facts,” but it is actually a very cowardly way of dealing with the world because if you only think that things can get worse … then there is nothing to do but lie back in your armchair and shake your head at it, whereas if you think that there is some chance that human action could make the world just slightly better or even keep it from getting worse … you’re actually responsible then for doing some small bit of something in your own lifetime. So the idea that pessimism is somehow brave or honest is … a sleight of hand.

Her subject was pessimism about social progress. Nevertheless, it seems that if the imputation of toughness is appropriate in that case, it could not be withheld in the case of pessimism about the existential questions covered in this book.

What does the emboldened phrase intend to say? It feels deliberately phrased vaguely, possibly for tact. That toughness also ought be imputed to pessimism on the significance of death too (as life can be burdensome, if one judges life worthless and aimless)?

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Going by the short excerpt here it seems to me that Benetar is mischaracterising her thought; the sentence that you're concerned with is prefaced with an 'if'; but should we grant him his if?

It seems to me that this is as she says 'a sleight of hand'; the if is not justified; Benetar is using her thought as a springboard for his own very different (and much less visible) thinking.

I'd also add here the quote from Hegel she prefaces her book, Evil in Modern Thought:

"The great assumption that what has taken place in the world has also done so in conformity with reason—which is what first gives the history of philosophy its true interest—is nothing else than trust in Providence, only in another form."

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Susan Neiman claims that pessimism about social progress is "very cowardly". The show of being brave or tough by the pessimist is a "sleight of hand", that is, it is false.

Benatar writes:

Her [Neiman's] subject was pessimism about social progress. Nevertheless, it seems that if the imputation of toughness is appropriate in that case, it could not be withheld in the case of pessimism about the existential questions covered in this book.

Benatar is claiming in this passage that Neiman's criticism of pessimism about social progress, even though it is a different form of pessimism than what he is promoting, could be applied to his own version of pessimism, that is, Benatar's own version of pessimism could also be viewed not as bravery but cowardice.

He is not saying that toughness ought to be imputed to his pessimism based on Neiman's argument, but rather that a false toughness or a form of cowardice is what is involved in Benatar's pessimism based on Neiman's argument.

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