Wanting to pull clouds: The moral psychology of hope

The extent of the approval with which Western culture views the attitude of hope can scarcely be exaggerated. Hope is seen as that which sustains us through wartime, death camps, slavery, natural disaster, extreme disease and disability—it is a light, a beacon, the last spark that fuels us when all else has failed. Hope is also seen as a moral and spiritual virtue—hoping for moral progress in this world, and salvation in the next, is at the heart of a meaningful human life. A positive view of hope infuses Western theology since Aquinas; utopian political philosophy, positive psychology, the self-help culture, the clinical research community, a wide range of activist groups, and a great deal of political rhetoric all maintain the affirmation of hope. The only qualm commonly expressed about hope is that it is sometimes “false:” that is, based on lies or misconceptions. False hope is bad because, first, it is bad to be deceived and, second, it may suck up resources better spent elsewhere. False hope, though, is not genuine hope, and genuine hope is an essential human good. My book Wanting to Pull Clouds will argue that the popular view of hope is vastly and dangerously oversimplified. Much more insidious than false hope is hope that is “genuine” and not based on lies or misconceptions, but that nevertheless bears important conceptual and empirical connections to passivity, inattention, excuse-making and wishful thinking. To be clear, this is not an anti-hope project. Rather, it examines the mechanisms that make hope desirable and virtuous, when it is these things; it becomes clear in the course of this examination that these very..
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