Research Questions

We funded projects that explored the following Research Questions.
  1. What is hope? Is there more than one kind of hope? Is hope a propositional attitude, an emotion, a virtue, a cognitive state, or some combination of these? Can hope be normative – in other words, ought we to hope (or not hope) for certain things? What is the opposite of hope?
  2. What is optimism? Is there more than one kind of optimism? For each kind of optimism, is it a long-standing character trait, a cognitive state, a disposition to engage in certain activities (and refrain from others), a combination of these, or something else? Is optimism (or lack of optimism) ever normative?
  3. What interesting relations do hope and optimism bear to one another? Is hope a kind of optimism (or vice-versa)? Are they exclusive or complementary (can someone hope and be optimistic for something at the same time)? Are there cases where hoping entails being optimistic (or vice-versa)? Are they typically or always causally connected?
  4. Must hope and/or optimism have objects? Or could one be hopeful/optimistic (full stop) without there being an object of that hope/optimism?
  5. Belief and knowledge are typically regarded as propositional attitudes. Although “hopes that” locutions indicate that hope is also a propositional attitude, we might wonder whether hope is a propositional attitude in the same way that belief and knowledge are. What are the semantics of “hope that” locutions? Is hope directed at the same kinds of propositional objects as belief and knowledge, or do its objects fall into a different ontological or modal category? Is ordinary language and/or conceptual analysis our best guide to answering these questions?
  6. What are the epistemic norms and roles of hope and/or optimism? Can they provide support for (or undermine) other attitudes, like belief? Under what conditions are they rationally justified? Are those the same conditions under which belief is justified? If not, why do the conditions differ? Do hope and optimism come in degrees? Why is believing a proposition regarded as somehow firmer than hoping that the proposition is true? Can one have accidental hope in the way in which one can have accidentally true belief?
  7. Optimism bias is a widespread tendency to overestimate the chance that good things will happen and to underestimate the chance that bad things will happen. Is optimism bias epistemically defective? Does it constitute a form of irrationality?
  8. In the epistemological literature on disagreement, so-called “conciliationist” views counsel agnosticism, or at least strong downward revisions of credences, in the face of symmetric rational disagreement among epistemic peers who have conflicting beliefs or conflicting knowledge. What does rationality require in the face of symmetric rational disagreement among epistemic peers who have conflicting hopes? Are the options here analogous, or are the differences between hope and belief/knowledge significant enough to warrant different kinds of conclusions?
  9. Closure principles of various sorts have been important in contemporary debates about skepticism and knowledge. Are there plausible closure principles for hope or optimism and, if so, to what extent do they structurally mirror closure principles for rational belief or knowledge? Which closure principles for hope or optimism are needed to make practical arguments valid?
  10. Is hope a virtue? If it is, is it an epistemic or intellectual virtue in addition to a moral one? How would this fit into current discussions of epistemic or intellectual virtues?