(Source) “The menu is mostly history: the classical period, the Carolingians, Britain up through the fourteenth century, American Puritanism as seen by historians after Perry Miller, the United States from Jefferson through Lincoln. It may be that the seemingly intrinsic attraction that past time has for me is merely a desire for escapism, as I look out at the nation and world with little optimism, but it may also be that the tug of history gathers some force from a hope of getting a better perspective on what I see around me now, maybe a perspective even as sound as one in evidence on Commencement morning last May.

What are words that describe someone with the bolded view, of former US Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? 'Pessimistic' sounds too extreme, because Justice Souter has excelled at his duties? I'm hoping to research more about and be inspired by similar people who were bachelors and fittingly deemed dignified, erudite, frugal, humble, virtuous, and wordly.

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    The longing or pining for better days is captured poetically in the word wistful, or more strongly and less poetically in nostalgic. That said, while one connotation of the terms arises from a (vague or not) dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, the words do not speak to one's future outlook, whether optimistic, pessimistic, or otherwise,.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


Actual answer: I don't think the text in your question describes someone who is escapist and marginally optimistic. It is the statement of someone who is more world-weary than anything else. In the passage, Souter gives the impression of someone beaten down by life.

Bonus answer: Still, just so you understand the spectrum of positive-negative nouns generally used to describe people in various states of enthusiasm, here are four as I've come to understand them through extensive reading:

optimist — Someone who thinks things are probably good now and surely will improve in the future.

meliorist — Someone who believes things can get better, but it will take work and success is not assured.

pejorist — Someone who believes things are likely to get worse, and only a great deal of effort will prevent this.

pessimist — Someone who believes things are probably bad and will continue to decline no matter what happens.

Obviously, some may see little difference between pejorist and pessimist (and some dictionaries consider them synonyms), but in my reading I have observed that the former appears to be less negatively nuanced than the latter.

  • @UpvoteLawArea51Proposal you are the OP. OP stands for original poster.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 6:08

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