Why should we be hopeful at all?
Answer by Geoffrey Klempner
There is no limit to how bad things can get. This is a truth that has been known at all times even though it has not always been believed. And, in fact, it is very often the case that it is not believed. Human individuals find it very difficult to accept that the worst could happen to them, or even worse that ‘the worst’ as they conceive it.
There is no limit to how bad things can get, regardless of the existence or non-existence of God. Maybe there is a Hell and you are bound for it. Some would say there doesn’t need to be, this life is hell for so many people today.
I remember reading somewhere that ‘being hopeful’ is a trait of normal human psychology, and that the default position on the scale of pessimism and optimism is somewhat towards the optimistic side. To see the world as it is, just as it is, without the colouring of emotion or fancy, one can only be depressed and disheartened.
The truth is that there is no ultimate ‘reason’ for anything, no reason to get out of bed, except for the reasons we create ourselves, give to ourselves. Nature has ensured that, for the most part, we ‘find’ these reasons and are satisfied by them.
But what good is ‘hope’ if you see through it? That is the question. As human beings in the world, we seem to be faced with the alternative of giving ourselves to our nature, as beings who pursue our lives under the optimistic illusion that ‘things will work out for the best’, or realizing the awful, paralyzing truth.
It is a question that I have considered in my recent books. How to live, as a philosopher (or ‘philosophizer’ as I term it). I’m not now talking about philosophy as an academic exercise, but as an approach to life, as an attempt at solving this very problem.
I don’t have an answer for you. I am going to die. I am nearer death now than I was when I started out on this quest. I will almost certainly pass away before I achieve any satisfaction or find answers to the questions that grip me. Like many people, I hope that the process of dying won’t be too painful, even though it may be. But, who knows, I might be lucky, and that is something to be genuinely hopeful of.
The most important thing one could hope for the human race is that it should survive your death and mine, and all the current threats to its existence, that human beings will overcome our present disagreements and colonize the stars, as Asimov predicted. It could happen. Or we could all be gone in a hundred years. As a philosopher, I am not qualified to say what are the chances. But if the attitude of hopefulness helps rather than hinders a better outcome, that is sufficient reason for being hopeful.