Comments on “Hope”


Cases when hope isn't harmful

Cindy's picture

You mentioned: “Hope is harmful in devaluing the present and shifting attention to imaginary futures that may never exist.” and I’m not sure I agree completely. I’m thinking of the value of hope in financial planning–where I may choose to drive a cheap car now (yes, it’s a devaluation of the present) in the hope I will be able to purchase a home later. Or I live on 50% of my income now in the hope I can retire at age 30 (see the Mr. Money Mustache blog) and be free to live outside of the rat-race. I’ve seen people that lack hope make foolish financial decisions (splurge on things today that prevent them from achieving better things in the future).
Can you comment more on that? (By the way, I’m thoroughly enjoying your book–thanks for creating it!)

Hope and planning

Glad you are enjoying the book-in-progress! Sorry it’s taken rather a long time to get you a reply.

I’ll give two answers. Both share the observation that planning is—in theory at least—a dispassionate rational exercise, that need not involve hope or fear. Certainly one has preferences (one would rather have enough money to buy a house), but that’s different from “hope” as a constellation of emotions about possible futures.

Wearing my Buddhist hat (which I usually reserve for other web sites) I’d say that hope is never actually useful. Whatever is going to happen in the future isn’t affected by the emotions you have about it (only by what you do). Hope just creates stress, because hope and fear are basically the same thing. Many Buddhist practices aim at reducing the hope/fear cycle. Again, that doesn’t imply changing your preferences, or decreasing productive effort, or ignoring the future to enjoy the present.

In terms of Meaningness (as opposed to Buddhism), “hope” is reserved for matters of “meaningfulness” rather than practical outcomes such as finances. “Hope” is the hope specifically that eternalism can somehow be made to work, so that meanings behave themselves, instead of being all squishy and nebulous. So the critique of hope here is much narrower than the Buddhist one.

Hope and stages of adult development

Steve Alexander's picture

Relating hope to Kegan’s orders of mind, perhaps at the 3rd order (called Communal in Meaningness), hope (holding and expressing strong feelings about the future) is an important way of planning the future. There’s the expectation that others see your feelings expressed, and so will be persuaded to act in your support.

Wearing my Buddhist hat

Bad Horse's picture

Wearing my Buddhist hat (which I usually reserve for other web sites) I’d say that hope is never actually useful.

I think this reveals the fundamental pessimism of Buddhism.

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This page is in the section Eternalist ploys and their antidotes,
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