Kierkegaard on Hope as Essential to Selfhood

In Claudia Blöser & Titus Stahl (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Hope: An Introduction (The Moral Psychology of the Emotions). Lanham, MD 20706, USA: pp. 75-92 (2020)
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Kierkegaard differs from his contemporaries Schopenhauer and Nietzsche by emphasizing the value of hope and its importance for human agency and selfhood (practical identity). In The Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard argues that despair involves a loss of hope and courage that is extremely common. Moreover, despair involves being double-minded by having an incoherent practical identity (although it need not be recognized as such if the agent mistakes his identity). A coherent practical identity, by contrast, requires wholehearted commitment towards ideals and the hope that our ideals are realizable. Kierkegaard develops an existential account of hope that emphasizes the interrelation between hope and despair (hopelessness), seeing both as crucial for human agency and selfhood. More specifically, Kierkegaard defends the strong view that we should always hope for the good, no matter how bad the situation might be. Put differently, Kierkegaard sees hope against hope as necessary for human agency and selfhood. His emphasis lies not so much on a description of what hope is as an analysis of what justified hope is. More specifically, Kierkegaard argues that justified hope is interrelated with charity and religious faith, and has the highest good (eternal bliss) as its proper object. As such, it belongs not only to a Judeo-Christian tradition that focuses on the Pauline triad of faith, hope, and charity but it also belongs to a philosophical tradition from Augustine and Kant that views the highest good (the summum bonum), a synthesis of virtue and happiness, as the ultimate object of hope. However, Kierkegaard goes beyond his forerunner by developing a via negativa approach to hope that starts with hopelessness and despair before it proceeds to hope. Indeed, Kierkegaard argues that proper hope, hope against hope, both presupposes and overcomes despair at every instant.



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