Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

Ok dear people...

I think that the main problem with us is the lack of motivation to act -apart from the blindness which causes people to not to notice the need for it.

People don't seem to believe that it's possible to make a change, it just seems too hard, we don't have enough power etc. etc…. Apart from the fact that it is possible to make a change –obviously-, I want to focus on the psychological side of all this. I might be able to write a longer detailed text but this should give you an idea of what I mean:

It may be that moderns see hope as a vice because when forced to choose between hope and scepticism (which they read as realism), they would rather be realists and sceptics. But they are only on the horns of this dilemma because they falsely think of optimism-pessimism as bipolar. …

Although optimism and pessimism might seem like opposites, in psychological terms they do not function in this way. Having more of one does not mean you have less of the other. The factors that reduce one do not necessarily increase the other. On many occasions in life we need both in equal supply. Antonio Gramsci famously called for "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will": the one the spur to action, the other the resilience to believe that such action will result in meaningful change even in the face of adversity.
Hope can become a force for social change when it combines optimism and pessimism in healthy proportions.

Hope is not much use on its own. It is most adaptive when combined with integrative complexity, that is, the capacity to contemplate the complexity of problems, seeing them from multiple perspectives. One reason high-hope people overcome helplessness is that they more clearly conceptualize their goals than low-hope people. They also cope more adaptively because they generate alternative paths to their goals, especially when the path they try first is blocked.

Psychologists tell us that optimists have a superior ability to attend to and elaborate negative information and to then use this information to revise their coping strategies. Hope engenders more active coping, reduces denial, and prevents disengagement from stressful situations. Paradoxically, for those obsessed with the virtues of pessimism for correcting errors, the adaptiveness engendered by hope means that optimists are actually quicker to disengage from unsolvable laboratory tasks. It follows from this that optimists need their pessimistic side. What seems to lead people to become depressive and helpless is not so much pessimism -which is contingently healthy- , as “pessimistic rumination”, an inability to flip out of pessimism into optimism.

Hope is aligned with reason and action and has social roots that empower individuals and collectivities.

Through “parental- and peer-scaffolding” we are taught the process of hope,we learn its social etiquette – how to empower others through the gift of hope and how to empower ourselves through receiving the hope that others offer. Like all social phenomena, hope can go very wrong. But regardless of outcomes, hope we must. It remains the human beacon of engagement with the task of mapping our destinies.

If hope is at the core of our being, the question becomes how do we hope productively, not only as individuals, but also as collectivities? We refer to a positive form of this process – hope that is genuinely and critically shared by a group – as collective hope.

So to sum it up; it’s all about being pessimistic enough to notice the problems, and turning this pessimism into optimistic action, in order to shape our own future into something we want it to be.

This text was a combination of what I found in the wikipedia page about optimism and what I found after doing a little more research about what I read at that wikipedia page and the source of all these thoughts was a chat I had with my brother and with a friend, and finally watching a little documentary about Noam Chomsky. I liked his last words in it:

"... Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will ..."

Assembling that text was a lot of fun by the way, alone reading and having to type some of that stuff is motivating, I recommend it. :)

And to be honest I should tell you that I changed some sentences slightly, so the text might be a little manipulative. But the change is absolutely minimum, I can assure you... Besides even if it is, it is only positively manipulative, seriously...


See also: Hope as a Martial Art


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