London Review of Books: Dancing in the Service of Thought
[…The philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard's] contemporaries knew him as a loner and an intellectual dandy—a dialectical acrobat, a philosopher agile in logic and dry in wit, and a virtuoso of satire and comic exaggeration. He was famous for his wry scepticism, as in this so-called 'ecstatic lecture':
Marry, and you will regret it. Do not marry, and you will also regret it. Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way… Laugh at the stupidities of the world, and you will regret it; weep over them, and you will also regret it. Trust a girl or do not trust her, you will regret it either way. Hang yourself, and you will regret it. Do not hang yourself, and you will also regret it. Whether you hang yourself or not, you will regret it either way. That, gentlemen, is the essence of the wisdom of life.
This is not an example of wry scepticism; it's certainly wry, but what Kierkegaard is exhibiting here is cynicism.
It really pisses me off that people keep confusing these two words; they mean totally different things:
- scepticism (a questioning attitude), good
- cynicism (jaded negativity), bad
Mind you, don't you just love those Danish double-'a's? I'm thinking of changing my name to Richaard Caarter.
An optimist says...my glass is half full.
A pessimist says...my glass is half empty.
A sceptic says...who's been drinking my fuckin' pint?