The Art of Hope: A User's Guide
Reflections on the Virtue of Hope
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Two thousand years ago, the philosopher Aristotle was tasked with tutoring a young Alexander the Great. One of the lessons Aristotle taught was on the golden mean. Which states, “virtue is the golden mean between two vices.” On one side of the mean, you have excess and the other deficiency.
The golden mean is easy to understand in virtues like courage. The excess of courage is recklessness, and its deficiency is cowardice. But with virtues like hope—it is far less clear. Some philosophers (Nietzsche and the Stoics) criticize hope, and others (Diogenes and Aquinas) speak about hope as the most precious thing in life.
But when does hope become deficient and excessive?
My conversation with Kieran Setiya (author of Life is Hard) discussed some of these diverse opinions around hope. Here is a short clip from the conversation:
The virtue of hope is somewhat of a tightrope walk. On one side, figures like Schopenhauer stressed, “What disturbs and depresses young people is the hunt for happiness on the firm assumption that it must be met within life. From this arises constantly deluded hope and so also dissatisfaction.”
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