A Philosophy of Hope: Josef Pieper and the Contemporary Debate on Hope

A Philosophy of Hope: Josef Pieper and the Contemporary Debate on Hope

A Philosophy of Hope: Josef Pieper and the Contemporary Debate on Hope

A Philosophy of Hope: Josef Pieper and the Contemporary Debate on Hope

Synopsis

Josef Pieper was one of this century's most influential thinkers. A leading Catholic philosopher, he won a wide audience through such books as The Four Cardinal Virtues and About Love. This book is one of few extended studies of Pieper's thought in particular, of the concept of hope. Pieper was one of the first modern philosophers to explore the idea of hope, and Schumacher discusses his development alongside contributions by Sartre, Jaspers, Marcel, Heidegger, Bloch, and other thinkers. He examines Pieper's treatment of hope as an aspect of individual potential and as an historical force, exploring such themes as dignity, ethics, the good, and the just.

Excerpt

The theme of human hope has been put to a severe test at the end of the millennium, a period characterized by a certain pessimism and accompanied by a growing uncertainty about the future of human progress and the dignity of the human person. We need think only of the tragedies scattered throughout the twentieth century: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and so on. In an age of nuclear weaponry, we find it difficult to imagine how those in the past could seriously affirm that mankind was making steady and confident progress toward a better state, and how they did not even consider the possibility that the opposite could be the case. Indeed, Lady Hope enjoyed a certain success once she donned the optimistic garb of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philosophers of progress. In particular, she was viewed as the fundamental impetus of the historical dynamism of mankind in its march toward what Kant calls the “ethical community,” or what Bloch calls the “New Jerusalem.” Toward the end of the nineteenth century, this hope—that is, optimism about progress toward improvement, which Turgot, Condorcet, Kant, Marx, and Comte all predicted—began to give way to the rise of the nihilism expressed by Nietzsche, and later to the contemporary current of nihilistic existentialism. Hope was treated as an illusion, a vice, a poisoned gift, a curse that the gods had inflicted upon the human being. It was described as a promise that could not be kept, a beautiful idea bereft of any concrete reality, a folly, an opiate, and even as the greatest enemy, the worst of evils. Certain thinkers have even gone so far as to affirm that Nietzschean nihilism is the epoch-defining event of the beginning of the millennium, which marks the culmination of a universal movement.

This rise of despair has provoked, in turn, a reaction in defense of the primacy of hope, which occupies a decisive place at the dawning of the third millennium. This defense focuses not only, as the philosophers of progress did, on the relation between hope and the historical . . .

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