In many cases we hope wrongly, and for too much, yet in a world of difficult times and pessimism Deakin University Professor and philosopher Stan van Hooft has urged people not to stop hoping but to act and bring about the outcome you are hoping for.
In a new book to be launched at the Melbourne Writers Festival on September 3, Professor van Hooft investigates the fundamental human quality: hope.
“From the philosophical perspective Aristotle saw being hopeful was part of a well-lived life, a virtue,” Professor van Hooft said.
“For Aquinas, it was a fundamentally theological virtue and for Kant it was a basic moral motivation.
“But there is an ethical dimension to hope and there are particular ways of hoping as well as inappropriate ways of hoping.”
Professor van Hooft said hope could be described as authentic or inauthentic.
“Authentic hopers hope with a degree of realism and a willingness to act in pursuit of what they were hoping for,” he said.
“Inauthentic hopers hope for something and then leave it to others to bring it about.
“Wishful thinking is the most obvious form of inauthentic hope – people hope for something and send out a supplication.
“It is akin to a message in a bottle, you put a message in a bottle, toss it into the ocean and hope someone will find it and help you.”
Professor van Hooft argued religion was one example of this.
“With religion you hope for a set of spiritual things such as eternal life, justice or forgiveness and in effect cast the achievement of those onto someone else, it is inauthentic hope at its extreme,” he said.
Professor van Hooft said there were a myriad of similar examples.
“With illness we rely on doctors and hope but lose our autonomy to the clinical process,” he said.
“In politics hope is used a lot to achieve engagement with the political process. “Barack Obama for example used hope in his election campaign.
“Yet while hope is needed to achieve engagement with the political process there is a danger of hope becoming wishful thinking, we hope for something better and rely too heavily on our leaders to bring that about. “We need to be prepared to act to bring change about.”
Professor van Hooft made a distinction between hoping and hopefulness.
“Hoping is an episodic thing,” he said. “At this moment I am hoping it will be fine on the weekend.
“Hopefulness is a character trait, a disposition to think in a certain way. “It is different from optimism which is more of a belief that things will turn out for the best. “Hopefulness is an ongoing disposition that enables one to act purposefully because one expects good outcomes and places trust in other people.”
Professor van Hooft urged people to not expect the world to be on their side all the time.
“Some people think that hope can somehow protect you from the vicissitudes of life,” he said.
“When bad things happen to them that it is unjust and a violation of their happiness.
“The book is a warning against that view.
“The world is just what it is, disasters happen, you have got to live in that world, but you have got to be hopeful as well.”