Cynicism is usually seen as a provocative mode of dissent from conventional moral thought, casting doubt on the motives that guide right conduct. When critics today complain that it is ubiquitous but lacks the serious bite of classical Cynicism, they express concern that it can now only be corrosively negative. The Function of Cynicism at the Present Time takes a more balanced view. Re-evaluating the role of cynicism in literature, cultural criticism, and philosophy from 1840 to the present, it treats cynic confrontationalism as a widely-employed credibility-check on the promotion of moral ideals—with roots in human psychology.
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