Hope and Optimism

Hope and Optimism

Philosophers and psychologists view optimism and hope as distinct but related attitudes, a report funded by the John Templeton Foundation finds. Based on a review of nearly a hundred and fifty sources from the last fifty years, the report, Hope and Optimism (47 pages, PDF), found that optimism is generally categorized as dispositional (involving a general tendency to expect things to go well) or contextualized (oriented around a specific goal). But while optimism can provide people with motivation, improve their well-being, and help them cope in tough times, the report's authors write, it can also set them up for disappointment. And whereas optimism is the belief that a good outcome will occur, hope is linked to both belief and desire and is "something we can hold on to even when we've lost confidence" and are not optimistic. Definitions of hope also may include the perception of the means and agency to achieve a goal, as well as a distinction between "rosy" and "fearful," an example of the latter being climate activist Greta Thunberg's hopeful statement "I want you to panic." While the construction of hope includes motivational, identity-related, and democratic values, its downside includes overconfidence and de-motivation (in putting hope in others). The study examines several sub-varieties of hope, including "Christian Hope" — which emphasizes confidence even when one is uncertain of the details — and "Pragmatist Hope," which emphasizes flexibility, a commitment to what works, and acting as a participant rather than an observer.