Radical Optimism

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What is Radical Optimism?

Some people are optimistic about a few things and cynical or "realistic" about others. Radical Optimism is a philosophy that argues for looking at the good in every part of life, based on reason and evidence. If you're sad, angry, or depressed, even for a moment, Radical Optimism questions why you feel this way and helps find positive sides, on topics such as:

Presentation: http://averageradical.github.io/radicaloptimism/#/

For those in San Diego, there's a Radical Optimism Meetup group.

What makes it radical?

Radical Optimism doesn't deny that there are major problems, potential catastrophes, unanswered questions, and sad stories. It's radical because it always looks for the good in something, even when the evidence is clear that something is ostensibly bad.

What's this website for?

Radical Optimism is not just some vague, feel-good mindset. Radical Optimism makes specific arguments for optimism based on reason and evidence (and a bit of mystery). This website is primarily a place to explore and debate these arguments.

Why Radical Optimism?

Cynicism and "realism" seem to be contagious, and they reign in the media, education, and common wisdom and memes. Radical Optimism hopes to balance this out. In addition, the scientific field of positive psychology has discovered that positive emotions and optimism are correlated with reduced depression and death from heart attacks, and increased attention, creative thinking, positive moods, perseverance, success, marital satisfaction, and physical health.

What's so great about reason and evidence?

While it's probably true that human knowledge will never be perfect (including mathematics which is limited by Gödel's incompleteness theorems), approaches such as rationality, finding evidence, and the scientific method, while imperfect, are the best ways to increase the chances of discovering correct information and improving outcomes. Otherwise, it's like picking actions out of a hat. If you had a problem and your doctor picked your treatment out of a hat, you'd be lucky if you weren't made worse off[1].

Why do we keep putting scare quotes around "realism?"

"Realists" are Radical Optimists' main target audience. Such realists often respond without much reasoning or curiosity, with vague statements such as, "Well, you know, it depends." Why does it all depend? Does the statement "it depends"... depend? Radical Optimism encourages real realism: "That is bad, but on the other hand this good can come out of it", or "I disagree because of X, Y, and Zed," or "I don't know."

What about Candide?

Radical Optimism has no issue with Voltaire's scathing criticism of Leibniz's "best of all possible worlds" theory. Radical Optimism accepts what's true and the world as it is.

How does this website work?

It's primarily a wiki organized by topic, just like Wikipedia. Share links with friends and debate. The wiki is currently moderated because it's too small to police itself from anonymous spam, so you need to register if you want to edit the wiki.

Where's all the content?


  1. The Irrationality of Politics, Michael Huemer, TEDx, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JYL5VUe5NQ