Why is it Better for You (and Us) to Hope than to be Realistic?

Fundamental Hope: Individual, Social, and Political Perspectives

  • Philosophy

Principal Investigators

Dr. Claudia Blöser
Institute for Philosophy, Goethe University Frankfurt
Dr. Titus Stahl
Faculty of Philosophy
University of Groningen


Many people believe that if they were to lose hope, their life would be much worse – to such an extent that life may no longer seem worth living. But hope is not only important for us as individuals; we also think that our societies and communities are only truly flourishing if their members share certain hopes.

But why is it important to hope? And do people who lose hope do something wrong? Are societies without hope necessarily bad societies? Many philosophers believe that this is the case. They argue that we should not lose hope, because being hopeful enables us to be successful in life, motivates us and makes us happy. This might very well be the case. However, we will argue that our hopes are not only important because of their effects on our mood and our actions, they can be also valuable indepen­dently of their effects because of their role in making us into the persons that we are. Someone who sees herself as a parent, for example, cannot be the person she is without having certain hopes for her children. Similarly, one might argue that it is not possible to be a citizen of a democratic society without having the hope that justice and self-government are possible and will succeed. Our project will examine this idea with philosophical methodology and suggest that the essential value of hope is con­nected to our practical identity.

The project has two parts, one part focuses on the value that hope has for individuals and one section focuses on its value for social relationships and for groups. In the first part, we examine the notion of a “practical identity”, why hope might be necessary to have such an identity and how this allows us to better understand why it is valuable for individuals to hope. We also discuss the relationship between hope and trust in this part.

The second part of the project is concerned with the social dimensions of hope: Not only is it the case we place our hope in others, it might even be the case that groups, communities and even whole soci­eties can have certain collective hopes. In this regard, we not only investigate whether this kind of hope has value for individuals but also whether it adds value to social relationships. We examine whether a group or community that shares certain hopes means more than that the individual members of that group or community have these hopes individually. Finally, if communities can have collective hopes, then this has certain consequences for politics. In the last section of the project we investigate whether democratic societies can only function properly if they are characterized by certain hopes, whether this means that governments have the duty to see that their citizens can share in these hopes and whether individual citizens have a good reason to be receptive to the collective hopes typical for democracies.