Cynicism is generally thought to be a bad thing. It’s not even generally qualified as good in certain contexts. Healthy skepticism maybe be acceptable, but healthy cynicism seems an aberration, a contradiction in terms.
A skeptic thinks carefully and critically, gathering information before passing judgement.
A cynic may have been a skeptic at one point, but a cynic has reached his conclusion. Whether through astute observation, detailed analysis of data, or simply a gut feeling based on no evidence whatsoever – a cynic has embraced a lack of hope, a lack of faith in humanity, and has come to the conclusion that nothing is to be done.
A skeptic worries that humanity’s worst nature will surface.
A cynic accepts that it will.
You can see, perhaps, why cynicism is so frowned upon. Skepticism leaves room for hope – it accepts that the world is not perfect and there is much to be done. Cynicism crushes that hope with a stark assurance that life will always be hard, broken, and imperfect.
But is cynicism so bad, really?
What if life really will always be hard, broken, and imperfect? Is it better to accept that fact or to cling with grim hope to dreams of a better tomorrow?
A cynic would accept it gladly, Better to embrace the hard truth than a comforting lie.
A skeptic and others more optimistic might dismiss the question outright. The question is a false one, they would argue – it doesn’t matter what is best in an immovable world, because the fact is that things do change. Sometimes they change for the better and sometimes they change for the worse.
And as long as you accept the inevitability of change, you hold on to a glimmer of hope. No matter how broken or unjust you think the world is, no matter how much damage you’ve seen man inflict on man, if you have hope, then the worst you can be is skeptical.
A cynic, they would claim, knows better.