When is hope helpful? A simple explanation of hope is a wish. Wishes, ungrounded, lend to magical thinking. Magical thinking being when insight or intuition is used without attempting to apply rational knowledge and logic. More specifically hope is projection of bliss into the future.
Future bliss sounds noble. It is desirable for all humans and animals. Everybody wants bliss. While the utility of perpetual bliss is unmeasurable, it’s likelihood is not. Even in perfect systems life is subject to random events. Scarcity and suffering, to at least a small degree is inevitable. Never ending bliss is practically speaking, a fantasy.
The human conscience is a risk engine. The wider the variety of data, both positive and negative in perception, the better it is at assessing risk. Negative events do not need to be directly experienced, though, those are more powerful. Humans can learn from others negative experiences, if we have access to them. Hope is a strictly positive spectrum. It’s lens filters out negative experiences. While a person is still forming emotional prototypes, the fewer negative experiences they have, the more poorly they will handle them.
The conscience catalogues our memories as an emotional timeline. Rational recall of memories evoke emotional states and emotional states evoke memories. Magical thinking, most typically in children, is a lack of reason. Rational thinking does not reliability examine’s the conscience’s insights. Until the ‘age of reason’ (typically 8 years old) children can not reliably process their own insights and check them for provability or even explain-ability. A lie told to a young child is a lie believed, wished and hoped.
A conscience tuned with exhaustive reasoning usually provides a moral compass for the future. Hope sidelines this process. It provides a seemingly moral workaround, but only justified by a hope coloured incomplete risk engine. As adjunct to faith (knowing something you can’t prove) it bolsters ideas that have already survived reason. Without reason and faith, hope is effectively magical thinking.
Unreasonable and reasonable hope
- Unreasonable hope: Insight(bliss) -> logical mind -> bliss based rationalization -> more bliss
- Reasonable hope: Insight (a blend of bliss, despair and will to action) -> logical mind -> rationalization -> faith or fact (successful reason) -> faith (facts don’t need hope) -> reasonable hope (hope that’s been through the process of reason)
Hope is self perpetuating, and inferior to reason driven and inherently sceptical faith. It may occur if no emotional rewards are provided to children for challenging magical thinking at the age of reason along with emotionally negative events. It is impossible to weigh risk without negative examples for comparison. All scenarios do not need to be personally experienced, that’s both cruel and rejects the validity of imagination and empathy, but without some personal loss, imagination has no prototypes by which to scale despair.
Hope’s legitimate utility is a stand in for faith, in those too young or innocent to reason.
Reject hope as a substitute for reason by exposure to limited experiences with pain. Ideally in small, short, doses. Such as quality parenting allows. Once your prototypes are formed, seek limited exposure and understanding to the worst humiliations of others. Not habitually, but enough to maximize the risk calculating yield of your own failures. No level of competence is above failure. Infallibility is a sign of hope substituting for faith, and that is a hope based fantasy. Periodically go to your fear. Ground your hopes in faiths both provable and unprovable. Understand the pain of carrying truth alone. Now your conscience has been seasoned with realistic risk. If you don’t, your conscience has no idea what you are in for.
EDIT: A Warning about faith. A healthy, stable society can help steer you away from poorly rationalized faiths (via shared faiths), but that can fail. They can be destructive too. Faith without quality reason is a setup for witchhunts, cult, and every downside to both logic, and hope. Only active curation of the metamind(the conscience) can result in reason, and ultimately that curator must be you. Know yourself. Start small and focus on the most inclusive compassion ethics and logic allow. Think long and often, act deliberately, and face, ‘The ends don’t justify the means,’ before you act.