[In Our Time] Hope


22/11/2018 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=59084109
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p06sjjhx.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora’s box or jar, in Hesiod’s story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, ‘what may I hope’ was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it.


Beatrice Han-Pile
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex

Robert Stern
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield


Judith Wolfe
Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Start Date: late December 2018

Finish Date: 2019-02-01

Somehow, this didn’t appeal much; and I blame that more on the medium than on the subject – this was probably a topic that would have been much more interesting as a full book than it was as a podcast episode.

Interesting things from the episode nevertheless:

  1. The discussion that even though hope and faith were proposed as Christian virtues, faith and hope are in some way antagonistic to each other; wherein hope that things may get better acts against the faith that things will be or are for the best.
  2. The discussion that the original Pandora’s box story by Hesiod is ambiguous on whether hope is just an evil that didn’t escape, or an antidote to evil. And how Nietzsche got firmly involved on the side of hope being an evil.
  3. How Spinoza and Stoicism also reject hope, but because they feel that one should be in graceful resignation instead of hoping.
  4. I didn’t realise until now that Deirdre McCloskey saying that both the classical virtues and the Christian virtues are valid, was a big deal. According to the episode, late antiquity hated the classical virtues of self-control because it was heretic to not leave control to god. Oh dear me.
  5. Incorporating 3 and 4, I saw a parallel to Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty; and wondered if resignation is the dark side of love or loyalty.
  6. I also got reminded of the line from Sandman: “What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”
  7. In the post-radio discussion, Scopenhauer came in. With Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, it was a Jeeves fiesta!
  8. There was a mild discussion on the finer distinctions between classical, Christian, and Jewish hope (the last being the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise); and I wish they had explored the Buddhist / Hindu / other conceptions as well.



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