Digest of terms


a sense of direction and purpose which is fundamental to developmental world views that are positive rather than negative in long term expectations. Its presence as optimism or absence as pessimism may be influenced by genetic endowment, biological nurturance and/or cultural determinants. It may apply to the life of an individual or of a collective whole, or to the two in combination.

Belief in long-term meaning and the confidence that there is yet greater progress and fulfilment ahead is applied to family life and friendship, as also to the different spheres of work and play. The sense of living towards a final historical culmination is found in Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Marxist perspectives; for Christians and Muslims this belief extends beyond the present world (heaven). For Hindus and Buddhists hoping has a different feel in that it includes the necessity of reincarnation/rebirth with the prospect of refinement and eventual release and fulfilment.

Moral realism looks for evidence as to what any hopes are grounded in. Sceptics are quick to judge much hope as the illusion of wishful thinking (e.g. some Freudians) or naively escapist in a compensatory way (e.g. some Marxists); the level of hope they affirm may well be quite minimal. Others, also disclaiming any religious belief, may claim that their reading of the evidence gives them at least a degree of realistic hope. Yet other religious believers assert their stance to be one of 'belief-ful realism' - providing encouragement in spite of interim disappointment. For both religious and non-religious people hope may lead to a general belief in progress.

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