I found this to be somewhat true: think of the world as a bad place, or dystopia, and then you will see good things and good things, as they are unexpected.

See the world in which people are decent, and you will see bad things and bad things, because people are to varying degree, selfish, and not rational but only stance / position (such as if people are in a religion or in political party or in a company small circle, they attack the other people and protect their own regardless of reasons).

Are there philosophies that actually propose we see the world this way? (see it bad to begin with).

  • Please explain "but only stance". Nov 11, 2020 at 2:25
  • added "stance / position"... meaning... in some religion, it is said that there is no reason but only belief, so it may not be to "reason" but rather, "because the person is the other religion, he or she would think the other religion is not correct"... similar in politics or company clique... actually, classmate clique, social clique, family clique as well Nov 11, 2020 at 2:37

2 Answers 2


It sounds like a Stoic tactic, similar to negative visualisation or 'premeditatio malorum'. The way you approach it as a reasoned tactic to produce a specific effect, suggests to me their methods will chime with you. They use tactics like meditating on your death, to approach life more fully, and realistically.

Christian thought sees humans as corrupted & sinful, only able to overcome that through divine intervention. Gnostic thought goes even further, picturing the material and temporal circumstances as ruled by evil powers, and salvation as only possible by reconciling with that fact - it has been popular in times of chaotic wars and epidemics, and historian Niall Ferguson describes it as the 'original conspiracy theory'.

Rousseau saw 'civilisation' as a backwards step: "our souls have become corrupted to the extent that our sciences and our arts have advanced towards perfection". And philosophical pessimism generally sees the human situation as problematic or unsalvagable, typically advocating self-denial and some measure of seperation from society.

Antenatalists like Benatar follow this line of thought to suggest coming to be is a net negative, a net cause of suffering, so it is immoral to reproduce.

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    May be worth adding Hobbes' Homo homini lupus est. It is a classic, after all. And maybe Schopenhauer.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Nov 11, 2020 at 21:28

Good and bad are relative terms - relative to how we desire the world to be. People tend to act good in good circumstances (things are ok, or you have a clear means and way of making them better) and bad in bad circumstances (scarcity, uncertainty). Starting with an assumption of badness is good in that it helps you avoid problems first, as a prerequisite for creating good things. That doesn't mean you automatically assume everything is bad, it's that you assume in lieu of information to the contrary that things being bad is more likely than them being good. Since the world is very unlike how we want it to be, and since people want diametrically opposed things, pessimism is a good deal closer to realism (which is the final goal) than optimism, and is a valid "prior" (starting belief).

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