Is Optimism Rational?

Sunday, July 24, 2022

What Is It

When the odds are against you, believing in yourself can be a source of strength—but it seems to require a cavalier disregard for the evidence. So is optimism a rational way to improve your life, or an irrational kind of wishful thinking? Will hope now just lead to disappointment later? Where should we set our expectations, and where should we teach our children to set theirs? Josh and Ray conquer their hopes and fears with Jennifer Morton from the University of Pennsylvania, author of Moving Up without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility.

Transcript

Transcript

Josh Landy  
Should you always look on the bright side?

Ray Briggs  
Or does it make more sense to think about how things could go wrong?

Josh Landy  
Can believing in a better future helped make it happen?

Comments (48)


Daniel's picture

Daniel

Friday, June 24, 2022 -- 3:56 PM

What would an essentialist

What would an essentialist account of optimism look like? It would have to demonstrate in what way or ways the optimizer is identical with what one is optimistic about. And identity is usually conceived in two ways: qualitative, which is loose identity on basis of predicate association (obtained by varying degrees of precision), and quantitative, which is strict identity on basis of self-association of the subject. Even if this latter can not be established to the exclusion of alternates, it holds categorically by subjective presupposition for purposes of internal coherence. The essential optimist is by this someone who doesn't fall apart when everything around him/her does. Therefore the essentialist account of optimism is Stoicism in its classical form.

But as indicated above, quantitative identity is in truth just the strictest form of qualitative identity, and is not categorically distinct from it. This implies that the essentialist view, in this case anyway, can not be correct. And that's another way of saying that the true Stoic's not really an optimist. Rather a coherentist account is required, where one person's optimism is another person's pessimism. And if this is the case, it can refer to nothing which is in itself substantial, but must derive from something which does so refer. But this "something" turns out to be what one is optimistic about, and not the state of mind which optimism constitutes.

The coherentist account is therefore a vicious circle. One is optimistic about something because something better is possible or it's not that bad; and it's not that bad and something better is possible because one is optimistic about it. Note that this merely describes a combination of an attitude or state of mind with the context of its contents and associations. As a description of a part of the world rather than a correspondence with it, to describe the coherentist view as a self fulfilling prophecy would be highly over-zealous and inaccurate. It's something that's found in particular situations, variously describable.

It appears, then, that the distinction between optimism and pessimism is a superficial one, referring rather to topical responses to particular states of affairs, and playing no detectable role in their outcome. A better terminology to refer to their objects would therefore be sensibility and irritability, as that would more fully indicate the situation to which one or the other is a response. Sensitivity is associated with information-input, and therefore sufficiency of judgement-relationship to truth-contents; whereas irritability precludes given categories of stimulation, and therefore does not contribute to analysis of more complex levels of experience contents.

It turns out then that optimism can be given neither an essentialist nor a coherentist reading, but rather a veridical one. It refers to an anthropological approximation to what in a comprehensive context is describable as cosmological knowledge or knowledge of the universe, divisible into various situations where the relationship of sensitivity to the truth of what can be said of a situation, and the irritability to what one doesn't want to hear said about it, can be observed.

Further implied here is that there is no indifference to this distinction, which is formally bi-valent, once the veridical view is assumed. Regardless of the circumstances, one or the other more or less predominates. So how can the present forum-participant express appropriate sensitivity to the relevant state of affairs? Perhaps this would be best expressed by taking note of the fact that participation in the public utility of an intellectual exchange-venue is in principle universal, so that it must be considered a defect where its use lacks a high number of contributors. So can a consideration of the possibility of many future contributors, rather that the current actuality of the paltry few, constitute a true sensitivity to the forum's situation as a public utility, and therefore be not incorrectly describable as "optimistic" in the traditional sense?

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Monday, June 27, 2022 -- 1:59 PM

As the question of optimism

As the question of optimism has to do with expectations, it can be posed in the most basic of ways, e.g. as to whether or not the human species will survive another thirty years. As such, optimism is the counter-valence to likelihood of catastrophe-proximity. By emphasizing the practical aspect, optimism is not solely reduceable to the sensibility of epistemic accommodation of corresponding elements, as it was put above, but also what would be classified as irritability by the above distinction: an explicit denial of knowledge-justification in practical decisions under conditions insufficient for continued or sustainable existence. The goal of continued existence overrides confirmation-requirements for grounds of agency. Optimism in its purely practical aspect is therefore a bet that things won't turn out as bad as it looks like they're going to. If nothing is done where nothing can be known, the catastrophe is sure to follow. But if something is done where nothing can be known, it just might do the trick. If it does, you've won the bet. If it doesn't, what have you really lost? This therefore I would describe as the non-superficial view for Optimism, as an axiomatic assumption for a practical operator.

Hence as a practical matter, erosion of human life-sustainability on the earth's crust and an unwieldiness of destructive technical capacity furnish together the sufficient condition for deployment of the Optimism-principle, deemed as practically necessary while underdetermined by sufficient theoretical grounds. What might such a deployment look like? At the risk of false-dichotomy, would we be talking about a new society, or just tinkering with the effects of the old one?

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Saturday, July 2, 2022 -- 5:02 PM

Please try not to chime in

Please try not to chime in all at once, --there is plenty of space for everyone to be heard. Certainly no one could assail discussion participants here with protestations of triviality or irrelevance, as the topic involves human survival in general and whether the educated classes are capable of supplying an adequate remedy for its potential unlikelihood. For those sharing the condition of viewing the notion of the existence of such a remedy in any form sufficient for its comprehensive accommodation by those to whom it would be prescribed, however, it must appear singularly underdeveloped.

In the first instance it should take the form of protective measures. In a broad ecological sense, the organic health of the earth's crust should be protected. Because this occurs not as a preference for something that can be dispensed with, but as binding upon a survival criterion, grounds of volition are not sufficient, but ought rather to be of the "right", so to speak, to stay alive, or for another generation to do the same. As human beings are not ecologically isolated, though, it's not only animals that also assert this right, but vegetables as well. In self assertion of such rights it would not be an unheard of event for example if a vegetable, through its lawyer, could sue a government or multi-national corporation. The pejorative connotation which this point is likely to produce must be immediately waived, since it is by just such a vegetable self-assertion where entire groups of plants not normally protected can have access to court systems and therefore be protected by law. And only through such legal protections are the main terrestrial regions of forestation preservable. (The state is another issue, and it is uncontroversial that the functional legal standards of a society derive from different sources than does any structural arrangement of state power.)

Amendment IX of the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in this way, as protecting all the pre-supposed rights that don't need to be written down. For this is the body of law which gets the name of human rights later on, and from which the vegetable inherits its fundamental legal credibility. So is there something here? Ought a major part of an adequate approach to the likelihood of imminent terrestrial catastrophe be the confederated enlistment of international vegetative legal self-assertion?

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Michael A's picture

Michael A

Thursday, July 7, 2022 -- 2:49 PM

I'm looking forward to this

I'm looking forward to this episode. I haven't thought much about different ways of conceiving optimism. I need more time. But I like the idea of treating it as a bet on the future. To add to the mix, I have long held on to the view that Hope is different than Optimism. I learned this from Cornel West. I want to say I first read about it in American Evasion of Philosophy, but know he's talked about it recently. Can one have hope even while being uncommitted to any expectations about the future? Can one have hope even while expecting matters to worsen? Sometimes I even hope for one outcome, while betting on a different outcome. Thanks for this timely and important topic.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Thursday, July 7, 2022 -- 10:43 PM

It seems to depend on what's

It seems to depend on what's being hoped for or optimistic about. Say someone says "it looks like it's going to rain, but I hope it doesn't". Here hope constitutes an emotive response to a perceived likelihood of an undesirable object, but the hoping can't affect the object of the probability-judgement. But say someone else says "I don't see any jobs in my field but I hope I get one". Here the hope can have a constructive effect on a future probability judgement about the same object, so that they together reciprocally help to determine it. The problem in my view with this dichotomy is that optimism is described as a passive rational assessment, whereas hope is an active emotional identification, so that lack of the former must precondition the latter, and therefore a lack of optimism seems to be just a way to describe a generic predicate of that to which hope is a response. How might a common or collective hope be related to an unlikely yet necessary object? Does it make sense to talk about irrational emotional grounds for collective action rather than rational ones when these latter are not available?

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Michael A's picture

Michael A

Friday, July 8, 2022 -- 8:39 AM

Is the problem a distinction

Is the problem a distinction between Hope and Optimism, or treating that distinction without regard for other factors? For example, I think there's a meaningful distinction between baseless hope and optimism with some (strong or weak) basis. But there are other factors. Yes, sometimes hope may be an emotional reaction. But sometimes it may be an evaluative preference. For example, I hope for a sustainable future. Even if I couldn't find a basis to be optimistic about a human sustainable future, I hope for it and that hope can be a product of my evaluative judgments rather than an emotional response. Is this speaking to your account? Or did I misunderstand? To my thinking, in such cases, I wouldn't accept that Hope is irrational. Indeed, under those conditions, I'd see Optimism as irrational. I suspect there are some cases when hope would be irrational. If nothing else, there can be situations when a majority of people are hopeful about, say, democracy, because they've been taught to prefer it, but they don't understand it well. And, yes, I suspect their irrational hope can make a difference, helping us become more democratic. As a longtime Critical Thinking teacher, I may be biased here; but I'm inclined to treat such irrational cases as vulnerable. When hope (or optimism) is irrational I fear it can make a negative difference as well as a positive difference. For example, if a group doesn't have a clear understanding of democracy, their democratic hopes might, in the end, promote an undemocratic future. I vaguely remember a Star Trek episode that touched on that subject. But, I'd resist the claim that hope always is irrational and emotional. I'd also resist the claim that optimism is passive, though it can take that form. Maybe this is a way to think about it: Hope risks irrationality and Optimism risks passivity.

Thanks again. I'm thinking I need to find a way to address this topic in my classes. I already touched on it a little when we cover Stoicism in my Ancient class (i.e. when we discuss Epictetus's account of expectations and Fate). But I think many of my students are understandably wrestling with these issues. It'd be an interesting way to end my Critical Thinking classes. But I'm mostly thinking about covering it in Intro to Philosophy. Thanks again,

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Monday, July 11, 2022 -- 6:07 PM

Thank you as well, for

Thank you as well, for sharing your pedagogical designs in the second paragraph and by extension inviting participants' suggestions as to ways of addressing the topic in the environment of a classroom or lecture hall, some outlines of which were set out in the first paragraph. The first way, as I'm sure you're aware, is to solicit pupil's topic-foreknowledge, showing aptitude level and imported pre-judgements. The second way is eliminating instructor's exportable bias, conceded on your part in the fourteenth sentence of the first paragraph as an inclination to irrational-case vulnerability, which can be surmised to mean that you're biased against any explanation which employs an thing's irrationality as a premise, which of course would be a serious mistake, even if and especially when irrational explanatory elements are excluded from acceptable conclusiveness, (as thereby permitting a residue of non-excludability). But the third and most important suggestion by my lights is the preclusion of reflexive resistance to the opposition's argument described in the second and third sentences from the end of the first paragraph, as this assuredly stands in the way of adequate paraphrase and must necessarily be excised from transmission and development of logic of argument. In the present case, it might show how the very sense of the word "optimism" implies that it consists of a judgement conditioned by a radical passivity of its subject, so that any description of its object can only be done by an observer who plays no role in determination of the existence of what might or might not be hoped for. Any intelligible contents of such a concept necessarily preclude optional characteristics, so that saying to someone that they should be optimistic is the same as saying that they have no freedom, other than very narrowly defined liberties such as hair color and choice of mainstream periodical. Does that sound about right? Teach yourself first, and the pupil learns by example; or Horace to the other poets: "To move another to sorrow, one must first grieve one's self."

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 -- 9:28 AM

How might the subject be

How might the subject be introduced in an Intro to Philosophy class, as you're mostly thinking about? Would it be introduced by stressing the philosophical aspects of optimism itself, or could one speak about how the study of philosophy is in some ways optimistic? Will you introduce it as a subject to be studied, or as its predicate? Using your Epictetean example, one might say that his philosophy was one of optimism insofar anything worth hoping for could not be tied to anything transitory and material, such as private property, which he famously said stopped where the limits of his physical body stopped. On the other hand, one could say that the study of Epictetus is optimistic since his brand of Stoicism is most well fitted to contemporary circumstances. Or is there a third alternative? A responsible pedagogue would not dangle such rich fruit before expectant ears without placing a few in proximity of repast. Certainly one could not claim that your readers have no stake in your reply. So which is it, optimism introducing philosophy, introducing philosophy as optimistic, or a third?

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 -- 1:29 PM

In response to the mention of

In response to the mention of the episode of the television program Star Trek, the distinction between hope and optimism becomes especially pronounced since, if hope is an emotion and optimism a probability-judgement, the Leonard Nimoy character (Dr. Spock) can only be an evidence-based optimist, whereas the William Shatner character (Captain Kirk) could have both characteristics, but arguably only as one sided; to wit, humans can have hope without optimism but not optimism without hope. But if hope is accurately describable in a majority of cases as an evaluative preference, as you suggest, Dr. Spock could also share in the Captain's hopes without exhibiting the non-Vulcan (as Spock's species variety) property of emotional responsiveness. Does that apply to the episode in question, to wit, that if optimism is limited by hope it can't be applied to non-human species?

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Friday, July 8, 2022 -- 8:28 PM

So the pair are defined by

So the pair are defined by the opposite of what they're risking, by your account. Optimism should be active and hope should be rational, and when one or the other is undertaken, there's a good chance, that is, a risk, that they won't be. If the claim is of an active principle which can become passive if executant, it is self-contradictory and therefore senseless. But if one considers it as a much weaker claim that it's a mere "way to think about it", as stated above, it's hard to disagree with, even if taking up the suggested way of thinking has already seemed to preclude to it any attribution of logical validity. The problem with expressing the pair as a dichotomy, inquired about at the beginning, is narrowly defined as two sides of the same coin, --that negation of one is affirmation of the other. Your commentary thereupon however covers several different points, and is worth reviewing below:

Your argument, while complex, can be paraphrased in my view as follows:
1) There's a distinction between bases of one's relation to expectations: lacking and not lacking (Second sentence).
2) Hope is both an emotional reaction and an evaluative preference (a preference which is preceded by deliberation).
3) Hope is rational where its preference-contents are evaluated, as in the example of a hope for continued human survival. (Your question here (ninth sentence) about whether this is "speaking to my account" can not be answered, since the use of the preposition "to" is unclear as to whether it applies to an indirect or direct object).
4) Preference contents (--for absent objects, it should be noted, as one can't hope for what one already has) are evaluated, therefore hope is (in more than one but not in all cases) rational.

--This is where by my reading the main argument concludes. The second argument challenges the claim that hope and optimism can work together, by showing how irrational hopes, described as those whose object is not well understood, cause more harm than good. In the provided example of hope for democracy, the evidence of its truth as an inductive claim is irrefutable. This challenge from content-deficient hopes however can certainly be accommodated by content-sufficient hopes, as in the example of those based on vocationally based employment, showing both to be compatible with the original assertion of probability-assessment's unidirectionality with preferred absent-object selectivity.

With regards to the main argument though the question can still be asked: Where does hope-rationality stand with respect to objects of collective hopes for unlikely objects? Might one be limited to aesthetic criteria as grounds for action where not enough scientific grounds can be found?

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Friday, July 8, 2022 -- 9:52 PM

The Stanford Encyclopedia of

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is an excellent place to start going into these shows when I'm unfamiliar with the topic, which is the case here.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hope/

There is a standard model of hope, definitions, and several contemporary takes. The nature of hope seems to be ever-changing, and climate is a great example. Still, it might be too big to define what is seemingly overly familiar, steeped in history, and dependent on your personal philosophical view. A Stoic, a Christian, and Richard Rorty walk into a bar… has many different punchlines.

I did pick up Jeniffer Morton's book 'Moving Up without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility.' This book has little to do with optimism directly, but there has been quite a bit written on it elsewhere. I would say a few critical words about her book, but it would go off-topic here.

Disambiguating Hope and Optimism, as Michael is suggesting, is a good start for me, and it would come down to affective engagement with the outcome. Hope implies a personal stake in some if not all outcomes. Optimism is largely inductive and not necessarily forward-looking, though optimism and hope can contribute to one's attitude.

Whether or not optimism is rational, rational is not optimistic all the time. Talk of pessimism and irrationality also seem off track, but those are just first impressions. It is easy to paint the world black and white with opposing concepts, but the question is not black and white. Is optimism rational? - seems grey to me given the many different takes on hope.

Kids should be given opportunities to safely fail, encouraged, and given considerable leeway to find their attitudes and path. The less rational that path is, the better.

There doesn't seem to be much common ground here. Hope, despair, identity, intention, expectation, and power must all be disambiguated and understood, along with good old, and new evil, to speak on whether optimism is rational or not. If one believes in external forces, identifies with larger social movements, or owns their agency in the world, that view will dictate whether optimism is possible. The validity of these forces, movements, or agencies will determine if the optimism is rational. It can be irrational and optimistic due to failure in any of these criteria.

Recently Matt Ridley and Hans Rosling wrote books about Rational Optimism and Factfulness. Those words are still prophetic in terms of overall human welfare. We are better off, in human terms, than we used to be. However, human terms are short-lived when attitude drives action and success instead of focusing on the overall impacts of our self-centered projects. In retrospect, I'm not sure just how rational Ridley and Rosling were. The challenge in the future does not call for optimism and rationality so much as realism.

I'm curious about this show as well. I don't have a handle on my attitudes here and less and less elsewhere.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Saturday, July 9, 2022 -- 9:23 AM

So if you hope for a cooler

So if you hope for a cooler planet but expect a warmer one, are you being optimistic, realistic, or hopeful?

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 -- 6:56 PM

If one has hope, they are

If one has hope, they are hopeful no matter their expectation.
If one expects the worse, they are not optimistic.
Realism here reflects the macroscopic world, which would put this use case in the realistic bin if this person believes in science.
Realism is challenging to come to terms with and find a common understanding.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 -- 8:54 PM

Assuming that the discussion

Assuming that the discussion is of possible objects within expectation-range of actual subjects, the divisions you've provided above are that hope consists in just looking at what possible objects one wants without regard to whether or not they expect to get them, optimism refers to expectations themselves in their relation to hoped-for possibles, and realism is the name for their combination where a lot of hopes for a few things are checked against a few expectations for a lot of things. Clearly, then, although it's not made explicit, your answer is that this person would be a hopeful realist who is not optimistic; --or in other words, a person who pays lip service to popular will while cherry-picking statistics to say that we should give up before trying. So if one hopes for a cooler planet while expecting a warmer one, they would work for the coal or petroleum industries. Is this correct?

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Saturday, July 16, 2022 -- 6:20 AM

This is not correct.

This is not correct.

To ascribe personal intent to people who work in any industry is absurd. Modern work, the complexity of our economy, and the ‘real’ world don’t function like that. We are as far removed from intention in our work as we are endowed with the freedom to reap the benefit of our labor. Most people are not allowed a fair share of the use of their labor; less and less benefit is shared with workers in the free world, while the actions and lives of others are dictated by authoritarian rule. Technology has enabled the overall standard of living to increase, even under authoritarian regimes, but that is no solace when these regimes attack the freedom or potential of others or Western politics favor plutocracy to the detriment of their working and middle classes in the pursuit of the personal projects of these plutocrats.

The reality offered workers in authoritarian countries is such that they have lost their ability to determine their intentions. From personal experience, I can attest some Russian employees of Western multinationals were bitter when international operations were closed down due to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Most, in my experience, agreed the invasion was wrong, but they saw their work as a refuge or as separate from the policy of Vladimir Putin. They also lamented their ability to express difference with their government and were frustrated with losing their jobs when they did not influence Putin’s policies.

This is wholly different from the situation confronting Western workers in the hydrocarbon energy sector. There is deep value in petroleum and coal, even if alternative energies make headway in creating cleaner technologies. It is wrong to blame Russian workers for Putin’s policies. So too, it is wrong to impute bad intent to anyone working or seeking work in the hydrocarbon sector. Wrong or right, this neither absolves Western executives who have suppressed climate science nor Vladimir Putin, who arrests and murders political opponents.

As I said before, climate change is a powerful case for this discussion but also misleading and might obscure some of the subtlety of hope and optimism as both pertain to rationality.

The exclusion of expectation from hope follows directly from your previous post.

“So if you hope for a cooler planet but expect a warmer one, are you being optimistic, realistic, or hopeful?”

The expectation in this post is not required to determine the last trait as having hope is the definition of being hopeful. But even without this setup, expectations are never needed, and sport is full of dashed expectations and last-second comebacks that make this point.

Optimism is similar to hope but not quite the same. Attitude, propositional or circumstantial, is the core insight. Neither expectations nor possibility are needed to be optimistic, only positive mental effort. Not even positive effort, rather relative positivity compared to the opportunity of others’. Importantly, desire, faith, or belief are not required – though most times are present with optimism.

The ‘real’ world contains attitude and is driven by it. At the same time, to be distinguished from the ‘real,’ the physical macroscopic world does not care for any human attitude, belief, desire, or expectation. That these two worlds, ‘real’ and physical, are different encapsulates one issue in your idea of a hopeful realist. Realism is not a simple term to define or use but a necessary one with climate change. But global warming is not the only use case from which to discuss optimism and rationality, and too complex to make the distinction. There are many rational approaches to life and work that impact climate change.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Saturday, July 16, 2022 -- 4:10 PM

Which ones? Distribution of

Which ones? Distribution of more recycling bins? Mean-temperature increase of the area bounded by the earth's stratosphere and its terrestrial surface is made to order for examination of the concept of optimism, because of its inevitability within a non-marginal degree of certitude to occur as an increase, making the sole question being how much. Global warming is subsequently the perfect problem to test for optimism, because its object can be so precisely measured, with the upper limit being whatever figure represents the degree at which human life would no longer be possible. But what is being tested for, --a property of the optimist, or a relation to its object? As the former can not be independently verified, it must be a relation. You've provided an account of what kind of relation, by my reading, in the seventh paragraph above: The relation is one of identity independent of clearly understood causal connections with its object. The example from professional sports is a good one as accounting for the compatibility of low expectations with high hopes, so that the optimist's object is shown as unconditioned by its perceived probability. Sharing this characteristic with hope, as you point out, does not equate to their being the same thing. For from there it can be deduced that as a concept it must somehow include expectation as well, independently from its probability but, it can be safely surmised, compatible with it.

This further indicates that calling it a variety of attitude is trivially true and non-informative, as showing nothing about what kinds of objects are related to it. A cheerful disposition under adverse conditions can be a subjective disposition towards any variety of different objects without indicating which ones they are. As posited above these must be expected objects, and refuge therefore can not be taken in optimism's phenomenal attitudeness. One can for example view the climate change case as temperature increase to an uncertain degree, while not unaffectable by human design. Conversely a case can be made where unalterable expected objects can be accommodated, such as the collision with an asteroid. But manipulatable objects are categorically excluded, as for example with an expectation that wet clay will be pliable, as well as regularly expected objects, as e.g. no one says that they are optimistic about the sun rising tomorrow. Therefore, the optimism-relation to unalterables is an indirect relation to an object by means of a purely empirical calculation which corresponds to it, and involves the key properties of hope and expectation. But the relation to alterables is a direct relation, since the object itself with respect to which a calculation is made remains affectable by intentional action. And when this object constitutes a necessary condition for human survival terrestrially, the relevance of the direct relation is emphasized, in contrast with the merely subjective relation to a quantification which corresponds to an unalterable. Since it is objective, it can be said to be rational; and because it includes hope, i.e. it can't be hopeless, together with expectation, as a low level function with respect to optional behaviors, it fulfills the hope/expectation criteria established by common linguistic usage.

Optimism is therefore a combination of hope and expectation as an attitude or mental state which is related to objects in two ways: as an indirect subjective relation to quantification of an unalterable object of concern or element of such an object, and as a direct objective relation to a quantifiable object of a similarly high degree of concern. This further implies that direct-relation optimism is a highly useful practical concept, whereas indirect-relation optimism is a theoretical concept with limited practical value, other than to reassure. In its practical aspect, then, the climate-change problem can be said to supply an automatic test for direct-relation optimism by its status as a matter of collective concern. Does that sound about right?

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Sunday, July 17, 2022 -- 5:48 AM

No your post does not sound

No your post does not sound right, but you are welcome to your view.

Your post sounds bombastic and mulish. This may be an appropriate response to climate change, but it doesn't help delineate optimism and rationality. Maybe all discussion should be about global warming. If that is your point, well done.

There is a disconnect that comes with attitude. It can be irrational and vital at the same time. Charitably that is the case here.

I wish you well with this.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Sunday, July 17, 2022 -- 11:37 AM

What do you think though of

What do you think though of my distinction between direct-relation optimism and indirect-relation optimism? Doesn't it clear up a lot of ambiguities when talking about favorable disposition as compared with planning requisition? The example of climate change is used because it can be measured by a thermometer, so that optimism-level can be readily quantified. But one could consider other matters of collective concern, such as the potential end of human civilization following a series of nuclear explosions. Perhaps this is an easier example, as it involves a big bang, rather than a slow bake. How might the concept of optimism be applied in that case?

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Saturday, July 23, 2022 -- 4:38 AM

To say there are two types of

To say there are two types of optimism, one powerless and the other practical, seems not quite right and creates more ambiguity. As I said above, I'm not well read on optimism and hope, but your indirect and direct terms match the distinction full stop. When one is optimistic that something will happen – they are, philosophically, expressing hope. When one hopes without an expectation – they are, philosophically, expressing optimism. Modern usage is confused on this.

Making this distinction between indirect and direct relation optimism is the same as distinguishing disposition and requisition. If optimism can separate from an object that one is optimistic about, optimism is separate, again, full stop. If that makes optimism less practical or valuable, then that might be useful.

Optimism is, however, practical, functional, and necessary for the most part. Climate change is a use case, but that requires qualification, which others have done. Unfortunately, most people trust networks that confuse what is real. Understanding what is real, our relation to reality, and the nature of truth are fundamental to the determination of the rationality of optimism. If anything, it is grey rather than black and white.

If we aren't successful, it won't be because of our lack of optimism. To breathe is an optimistic choice; instead, it will be due to a failure to see the world for what it is. I'm not gloomy, and discussing climate change or post-nuclear worlds is not helpful.

The simplest universal case would be parenting, perhaps. The object relation there is standard and profound. Hope is vital, and optimism is the only attitude worth passing to the next generation and welcoming the new day. Unfortunately, we can't unmake history, but we can dwell in the wreckage of the future. To get at the nature of optimism, we should think of our closest interactions, and we can build out hope from there.

You have posted nearly 20 times here and are thinking about this in several different ways. At this point, I'm more inclined to listen to the show and think about where that leads. I hope there will be better answers to this and your other insights.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Saturday, July 23, 2022 -- 7:55 PM

And this hope of yours, the

And this hope of yours, the one for better answers, is either attached to an optimism in the form of a good reason for it, or occurring alone without an optimism-accompaniment, as having no good reason for it. Most generally, then, optimism is defined as a good reason for any hope which can occur without it. So the question of whether one can be optimistic about an answer to a question about whether optimism is rational or not is itself an example of what is being asked about, and therefore begs the question. And because the distinction between passive and active forms, between optimism as assessment of unaffectable approachlets (dispositionally) and as preparation for affectable approachlets (requisitionally), offers no information about its rationality or irrationality, a more fundamental basis for how each is related to the object, determined as a hope-content, is sought. And here the parenting example (fifth paragraph above) is informative as a case of the active variety, where regardless of considerations of evidence, the best possible outcome is presumed as possible, and this presupposition makes such an outcome more likely, becoming itself part of the pool of evidence by which its probability can be assessed. Applied macroscopically, as you seem to want to do in the third sentence of the paragraph, the notion of events as contents of time can be described as presenting a dichotomy similar to the active/passive one. Because past actions can not be undone, as you suggest, neither can any future events which are predetermined by them. The problem here though is that purported unchangeable relations between events which have already occurred and those which have yet to occur are equally underdetermined by the evidence for the justification for such judgements. And because only the general structure can be known, the past and future are arguably identical in epistemic terms. Optimism is then correctly described as rational in the active sense insofar as it is analogous to the parenting case, where interpreting what's known of past events in their determination of occurrences yet to come turns out to be an existential gamble where the best outcomes are assumed as possible irrespective of evidence which speaks against them, provided that this evidence is not incontrovertibly decisive (as in cases of the passive variety). Is this reading in conformity with your deployment of the example?

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Tim Smith

Sunday, July 24, 2022 -- 2:11 PM

Jennifer Morton did not

Jennifer Morton did not clarify much here. She was overtly deferential if not evasive. I would look elsewhere.

Ray rightly points to identity.

Ken took chances. John had insight. I didn't hear Jennifer take a stand on just what optimism is or its rationality. That's ok, but I would prefer a bit more risk taking from an academic.

Hope and optimism are confused in the folk. Philosophy can clarify and help here, beyond punctuating neo-liberal trope. That did not happen here, and I'm not sure why.

There are three use cases of parenting with respect to optimism and hope that interest me; Santa Claus, "The Talk", and censorship. Morton put all her weight into the second. That is not rational.

Why so many posts on this one Daniel? You are using different terms each time. I like approachlets and would take that further, but I'm not sure you are building here or using scattershot.

Hope is biased by the arrow of time. Optimism is not. Approachlet or timeless unity, optimism is life, while hope is bias.

Breathe in optimism.
Breathe out hope.

I can't help you Daniel, but I have hope you will find it or answer it yourself.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022 -- 6:26 PM

Is it possible that you are

Is it possible that you are unaware of the immensity and irreplaceability of the help you have been to me already? Have I been so callously unequal to the requisite level of illustration of received value that the source from which it has been issued overlooks it amidst the much greater cornucopia of concepts constituting its environs? Betokened would it be for me to recoil in horror from such an eventuality and to dip the sputtering pen no more into the darkening well of wasted ink, should I not humbly and in concession offer in recompense a display of my fundamental lack of concurrence with any claim of helpfulness-lacuna.

The parenting example is the paradigm which furnishes the key to optimism as a variety of care. For it shows that the order of causal transmission from the care-giver to the cared-for is not coterminous with the temporal order of before and after, or earlier and later. And the reason for this is that evidence for irreversible causal determination of what properties which cared-for objects may or may not have is care-free, and therefore incompatible with care itself, with this latter drawing as it does on inexhaustible presuppositions for optional properties which are presumed as remaining possible independently of preconditions. Rational optimism as favorable probability judgement for an apparently unlikely object of hope, while not inaccurate, is inadequate once the parenting example is deployed as a paradigm of care, so that the order of causal transmission between care and what's cared for is precluded from the description of temporal order, and instead takes the form of a wager for best outcomes against irreversible pre-determinations, where both past and future elements are veridically adjustable in accordance with the outcome of the wager. The optimism-inhalant paired with hope as carbon dioxide-exhalant is therefore not sufficient, since for it irreversible order of causal transmission must be assumed.

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Tim Smith

Thursday, July 28, 2022 -- 7:20 AM

Morton may not offer personal

Morton may not offer personal insight, but she is well read. You and I may not come to terms or change our views one iota – relative to the rationality of optimism, but let's at least agree to listen to the show and the guest and find common ground.

Do you know your great-great-grandparents?

I don't. It is doubtful you do, or anyone does. We don't celebrate our ancestors as the ancients did, and most people don't know where or if their great-great-grandparents are buried.

I assume positivity to my great-great grandparents by taking my first breath and paying down my mortgage. This backward-faced optimism is all I am saying relative to the arrow of time. Don't start to wax here on parenting without first coming to grips with what Jennifer is saying.

Neo-liberalism isn't wagering anything. It's living and doing the best we can with the objects we have. The nature of these objects is changing due to our harsh touch, but causality was never the issue. Constructed ideas and objects can live far beyond nature. Human beings make things that make life easier for them. In the long run, that will be better for us as long as nature allows. We are testing that limit now.

We had a similar run-in with nitrogen about a hundred years before. We need a Fritz Haber to work our way around carbon. It will happen; we've passed the point of controlling our excess with our breath alone.

I wouldn't take my shortness about breathing too far either. All I'm doing is making the objective and the subjective difference between hope and optimism. Most exhalation is nitrogen; only one-twentieth of the oxygen inhaled is exchanged in any breath. It's not an in/out dichotomy. Finding symmetry is powerful, but it's inaccurate in this case when taken too far. But there is something very profound about breathing and thinking about one's relation to our surroundings. I don't want to lose the thought here on optimism and hope down that path, even if there's some truth. Optimism doesn't need an object. Hope does.

You're slipping into bombast. Let's focus on what Morton said or move on. The sentence will die soon enough.

What do you think of Morton talking about the cancer patient? That is a well-discussed thought experiment concerning optimism and hope.

The show was much more about climate change than needed. What about Jennifer's comments on climate?

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Daniel

Thursday, July 28, 2022 -- 11:05 AM

With respect to the broadcast

With respect to the broadcast in question, direct commentary is reserved until it is aired in my area, as listening by radio is preferred. Previous comments on Morton are based on her forthcoming article respectively noted below, which outlines a very narrow range for optimistic associations, namely, those for which optional characteristics, such as compulsion of post graduate student debt, have to be left out, making an epistemic model most optimal, where rational optimism is constrained by the boundary beyond which disagreement with majority objections is unreasonable; whereas the Stoical model, as the one where initial conditions can be altered in abeyance of relevant satisfaction of individual goals, is mentioned by Morton but left out of contention.

The parenting case is fundamental on grounds of assumed identity with the optimal object. In the interest of clarifying the importance of this example, which I've described analogously to grammar as a paradigm case, (which is to say that the opinion is expressed that all other cases are "inflections", if you will, of that of the parent's optimism), I'd like to bring up the discussion of pity and fear in the Poetics of Aristotle. In terms of the genre of theater, fear is produced in the spectator by observing a potential harm which approaches an identifiable character, say, a king whose admirable characteristics are tempered by recognition of certain humanizing flaws, because the potential harm is spontaneously understood to be of a kind which could happen to the observer. Pity on the other hand occurs on account of something happening to someone else. One feels pity in the observance of harm which could happen or has happened to another, excluding any necessity that the same could happen to one's self. A parent might fear, for example, that her/his college-aged child might not be able to earn enough to repay college loans on the basis that the parent has been in debt before or could be in the future as well, but does not pity the child, because the parent still identifies with her/him. The harm which befalls the latter is shared by the former.

Optimism is here described then as a complex concept built out of empirical and non-empirical elements, based on a difference derived from experience and an identity independent from experience. To wit: while hope is described as a combination of a desire with a relative improbability of its object, identity is describable as an unconditioned association with its object independent of its probability or improbability. My argument here is that this makes any discussion of optimism about something, say climate change, a variation of the parent's optimism about the child, insofar as the identity with the outcome is not conditioned by its epistemic veracity or its potential empirical contradiction. In addition, the sense of your claim that optimism requires no object to which it corresponds escapes me, as generic characteristics indicated by such statements as "things are going to get better" still indubitably contain an objective assertion.

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Tim Smith

Thursday, July 28, 2022 -- 7:31 PM

I re-listened to the show,

I re-listened to the show, and Morton has more to say than I originally credited. Let me know if you are moved. She agrees with you on optimism but also mentions the psychological position of optimism as a character trait, devoid of an object, desire, and expectation. It is very helpful that the transcripts are now provided, if not perfectly executed. Machine learning still has its limitations.

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Daniel

Friday, July 29, 2022 -- 1:37 PM

See my 7/29/22 post below.

See my 7/29/22 post below.

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Sunday, July 10, 2022 -- 9:04 PM

The same question could be

The same question could be posed in the manner of a "yes-or-no" variety: Being realistic about expectations for a warmer than desirable planetary environment and at the same time desiring a counterfactually cooler one, insofar as one understands the potential consequences for things which are cared about, can or could one be optimistic with regards to, if not the achievement of the counterfactual itself, reaching a situation which is compatible with its motive grounds? The translation of multiple choice into a yes-or-no however has the cost of having to beg two of the original questions:
1) Realism is defined by expectation-probability; and
2) hopefulness is defined by a relationship to expectation-realism with regards to cared-for objects.

Begging the questions of what's real and what's possible, then, one can ask: What's optimistic? It must be either a relation between them, expressible as mutual assistance between the possible and the real, or a third object in which they are in some way contained, understood as the hoped-for object achieved in spite of expectations, --in this case, a bit of a cooler planet or at least not much warmer of one. You've indicated the basis of an affirmative answer to the question, by my reading, in the fifth paragraph above, where a stake in the outcome of a process informs the Hope-concept, and optimism as the same thing wearing more realistic clothing. If one continues the analogy, one could say that hope is naked optimism, and optimism is dressed-up realism, which in turn would make realism hopeless pajamas. The point however is a serious one, and points to a non-indifference to collective human concerns, where the term "optimism" is used comprehensively. Its main referential function does not inform determination of an object, but reflects an orientation of the subject towards what sustains or promotes the object. Optimism is therefore a bit like love, insofar as the optimizer goes out of itself to where the object is, and doesn't attempt to bring it out from where it is. In answer to the question of what's optimistic, therefore, one could say "genuine care for a common future". But the answer to the original question might not be so simple, and therefore your reply on this important matter is cordially encouraged:

Being realistic about what can be hoped for regarding a changing planetary climate, can one be optimistic about it?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022 -- 9:24 PM

Because it can be safely

Because it can be safely assumed that a substantial measure of anticipatory forecast accompanies broadcast expectations with regards to the program-topic under discussion, it could be said that sufficient conditions have been set up, once key terms are defined, to conduct an experiment in the phenomenon of Optimism which holds the promise of determining whether it makes sense to talk about it as a human reality which produces verifiable results, or is just a manner of speaking and has no bearing on potential effects of collaborative work and constructive behaviors. In limiting the conditions for result-verification to the least possible number, it is useful to limit the question asked to one between two incompatible views. If one assumes conditions of impending approach of undesirable objects, Optimism is either comfort or axiom, and does not indicate a capacity for determining the probability of existence of hoped-for objects. The question should rather be limited to a relation of the subject to the reference-content, to determine whether it is based on comfort as space for reflection, or on axiom as time for concentrated activity. As the design is to determine whether its truest existence or best reference is one or the other, the notion of rationality is not necessary.

Twice above have participants expressed anticipation of the broadcast outcome, and these can be seen as expressions which contain elements and ingredients of what is called optimism. The question regarding these and other such expressions is whether they are based on comfort or on axiom. And this can be determined by experiment, which in this case is where each portion of participatory activity constituting what is called a "post" constitutes a contribution to a quantification of the result. On some specified date near the broadcast they can be tallied up so that a majority is determined, and by extension whether it is a strong or weak majority. This can then be checked against the eventual broadcast's contents, to see if the majority view appears. Only in the case of it both doing so and being the tallied majority can one say, with reliability confirmed by experiment, that it's the case.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022 -- 11:33 AM

Optimism has to do with

Optimism has to do with desired objects in future time. And one can be disposed towards the future in at least two distinct ways: anticipating it by active preparation, or awaiting it in passive inaction. As such, optimism has to be about something important. Its use in language indicates that it's always a matter of collective or generic import, and subsequently reflects the social conditions of its relevant context. I've argued above that optimism is a passive relation to an awaited object in future time. Hence it constitutes a comfort-concept with respect to relevant conditions of social control, and expresses confidence in their arrangement with regards to the respective desired object. That's one vote for optimism's predication by sociological comfort in reassurance of other's efforts besides one's own. Are there plausible alternates for optimism which assert an axiomatic characteristic actively anticipating its object?

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Friday, July 15, 2022 -- 8:51 PM

Let's say that because

Was Caesar optimistic about victory over Pompey before crossing the Rubicon? If so, he was confident, and this confidence acted as an axiom for his decision. But if he was not confident about future victory, but nevertheless crossed, this indicates that he really didn't want to, and his generals (or centurions) had to give him a push, being themselves optimistic about high positions in a Caesarian government. So can optimism be described, as this example suggests, as an epiphenomenon of historical events where to whom it belongs remains hidden? Was Plato for example optimistic about his Syracuse adventure or was it Tyrant Dionysius's optimism about learning mathematics that was the key inspiration to Plato's excursion? And if this arose from confidence in the truth of Plato's theories, was it on the part of both participants, or just one? On the occasion of Heidegger's 80'th birthday Arendt describes his support for German fascism in its early years in a similar way, so that optimism equates to apologetics. Here optimism is just a way to express a positive valence for an imposed adverse situation, and as such is a classical tool of repression. There's a line in a song from the 1980's that runs "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free". The second clause is the optimistic one, expressed in epistemic terms. It takes the form of finding something good in a bad situation, expressed as willful ignorance of the given non-optimistic.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022 -- 10:45 PM

In the forthcoming article

In the forthcoming article "Resisting Pessimism Traps; The Limits of Believing in One's Self" in the journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Professor Morton describes a pessimism phenomenon which in aggregate constitutes a set of aspiration-hobbling snares called "pessimism traps", whose evidence-confirmation mechanism is defective because the countervailing decision, the optimistic one, involving greater risk but more comprehensive achievement, can't be tested. In consequence, uncritical presuppositions are automatically imported into post-decision evaluation as having been confirmed, since the lesser goal is nevertheless a valuable one.

By my reading of the article four ways of avoiding these snares are outlined: an unconditional one, where goals are decided independently of evidence of potential success; a sociological one, deriving from obligation to others in similar situations of disadvantage; an epistemic one, where risk-acceptability is precluded only by the boundary beyond which disagreement with its non-acceptability is unreasonable; and the Stoical way, where teleological considerations are indefinitely suspendible in the furtherance of condition-totality acceptance.

While not getting into Morton's conclusion, it seems to me that of the four, only the Stoical way allows itself to tinker with a goal's decision-preconditions as a way of avoiding the trap of the choice of a lesser goal without sufficient evidence for rejecting the greater. For this the example of college application may be useful. Insofar as this can involve the risk of post-graduate default on loans taken out to cover the cost of what is called "tuition", the unconditionalist is either confident in the abstract that it can be repaid or doesn't care about defaulting, the sociologicalist will strive to repay it on behalf of the example it sets for others, the epistemicist can calculate repayment-likelihood by determining that it's not unreasonable to disagree with the chorus of advisories saying that it's unlikely, but only the Stoic can suspend the goal without abandoning it until that one condition is removed, so that associated risks no longer factor into any decision to pursue such a goal, and economic disadvantage as a factor in the trap to be avoided is precluded. The goal is the same, and only its acceptability under certain conditions has changed. Collective interest is appealed to prior to the individual's interest and related topical aspirations. A strike in discussions of collective labor action employs similar reasoning, where the goal of changing conditions in the workplace overrides individual interests for short-term compensation. The stoic approach could then be renamed the collectivist approach, so that pessimism-trap avoidance is assisted by the elimination of economic conditions for their occurrence. If a scenario is considered where many enrolled college-level students could take up a stoical attitude about graduation dates, the example could be carried a little further to ask: does the most rational optimism for avoiding the pessimism trap of assuming failure of student-loan repayment most readily take the form of a student strike against the sale of accredited education, i.e. tuition?

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Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, July 26, 2022 -- 3:16 PM

I will try again: there are

I will try again: there are those now saying consciousness is illusion. Others claim rationality meets that description. Optimism? Well, if optimism is also an illusion, then, hope; love; aspiration; and therefore beliefs, in themselves, are illusions. Did Davidson intend to say this when he called such things propositional attidudes? I don't think so. Nor do I think he might have imagined them to be re-interpreted in that frame. Some forms of truth and reality are time-sensitive. Many others are not.

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Tim Smith

Friday, July 29, 2022 -- 9:42 AM

Welcome back, Harold.

Welcome back, Harold.

Davidson's propositional attitudes and Frege's paradox are both relevant here, discussed by others, including John Perry and Ken Taylor in their work outside Philosophy Talk. I don't think Davidson has had a show or discussion. Propositional attitudes have, but not in particular, to Davidson's view. You have commented, as you say, before. I spent some time reading on this at your direction, and I continue to learn.

The idea of consciousness as an illusion is separate from Davidson's thought on propositional attitudes, and he does not go there, but we can.

Illusion is different than false belief, and one can live under an illusion and still have veridical belief, though it would have markedly less value. To this point, the idea of consciousness as an illusion takes precedence over the question of whether optimism is rational or not.

I'm reasonably impressed with the mysterious ability of consciousness to pierce illusions and determine de re reality, and de dicto reality even. Extreme cases are the standard model of physics and set theory.

If reality is not an illusion, optimism can be rational and irrational, as Morton states, depending on the de re state from which it is expressed. Don't jump off buildings thinking you can fly. Support worthy projects that need support to succeed.

If reality is an illusion, this doesn't change much except, perhaps, everything. But that doesn't further any project in the end.

Personal identity is illusory, as Ray intimates in the show. If we pierce that thought, we can be more optimistic about social projects that are core to preserving our de re reality.

Whether Clark Kent is Superman, Lois thinks that to be the case or if Superhuman traits even exist, optimism can be rational.

Daniel gets at some of the time sensitivity below. Thanks for this post. Propositional attitude and time are fundamental to one's view, which is no illusion, even if both attitude and time are.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022 -- 2:48 PM

Reply to participant Neuman's

Reply to participant Neuman's analysis of time-sensitivity and illusion in the 7/26/22-post above: The claim is that some truths are time-sensitive, such as whether or not person x is optimistic about situation y at time t, and some are not, such as the truth that two beans added to two pebbles amount to four items. But does the former apply to time with regards to what's sensed, or to change? If person x is optimistic about situation y at time t but not about situation y at time t' , the optimism becomes of the past but the situation has not changed. But if person x is no longer optimistic about situation y' at time t', the situation has changed, so that the duration of situation y is an illusion, but not the optimism, which disappears accordingly as the situation becomes a new situation. Time sensitivity is by this described, then, as a measure of situation-duration, or a change-barometer which therefore could be with good reason called a "temporometer". Mathematical truths do not show up on the temporometer, indicating no change for the duration of the measure. But a truth such as "the planet is getting warmer" would by contrast show a high measure of change, altered as it is with further conditions which can be identified. So is participant Neuman here suggesting that optimism and the other qualities associated with human consciousness can be determined with respect to their ontological status by the mere application of a well constructed temporometer?

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Friday, July 29, 2022 -- 1:41 PM

The discussion ranged over

The discussion ranged over three areas: psychological, rational, and collective. Study of optimism as a psychological property of a person is paired with pessimism, for which evidence can be gathered as to the causes of each, e.g. a particular kind of upbringing, et al. Falling outside of emphasis on predication of the subject however is the question of whether one set of objects is appropriate or not.

The philosophical study of optimism in my view can account for the question of the existence of such domains, for which Morton offers two cases for consideration: a rational choice model on the case of terminal medical diagnosis, and a collective action model based on the necessity of pessimism-resistance for collective response in the climate change case. The first shows how optimism is destructive of rational choice, where neglect of getting one's effects in order, which would be the rational choice, is produced by an active hope in an outcome so unlikely as to be unreasonable, and derives from a bias towards one's own biological duration over the concerns of others and one's posthumous reception. Indifferent to any observed psychological properties, then, the terminal diagnosis case furnishes an example of optimism's irrationality as based on having the wrong object.

In the climate change case on the other hand Morton offers an example for the rationality of optimism as having the right object, but as unattainable by the wrong subjects. I read her argument in two parts:
1) In cases where collective action is assumed as necessary, justified judgements of probability are precluded to individuals, since only in concert can such judgements be supplied with sufficient evidence. The rational object determines the conditions for the judging subject by excluding individuals.
2) Because individuals in isolation can only irrationally judge the positive likelihood of an object which requires collective action, the individual is left nevertheless to make a negative judgement of a collective object's unlikelihood in cases of individual pessimism. If non-collective positive optimism is rejected, pro-individual pessimism-resistance is accepted, so that objects of collective optimism are rational just in cases where they are conditioned by non-pessimistic subjects. On this is based my reading of Professor Landy's parody as regarding the climate change case, as "great expectations for little thinkers", --that is, only where enough are convinced that it can't be done on their own or by someone else, like a CEO of an energy corporation, do the larger expectations for greater objects become possible. Self-denial of the individual equates to common affirmation of collective.

In should be noted however that both examples beg the question of why and whether something like optimism exists in the first place, but it can be gathered from the quality of emergency which is shared by both that it consists in or emerges from a sense of threat, and not from aspiration unconditioned by acute urgency.

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Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, July 30, 2022 -- 11:35 AM

After all the foregoing, and

After all the foregoing, and admitting I have not read most of the comments, I wonder if whether or not optimism is a requirement is merely academic. Moreover, the notion of rationality (reason) does not seem reliant on a reasoning person being, or need be, optimistic about potentials/outcomes of that faculty. One state of being does not appear to require the other. What am I not getting here?

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Tim Smith

Sunday, July 31, 2022 -- 5:07 AM

You aren't missing much.

You aren't missing much.

If we agree optimism can be object and expectation free, and even abstracted from reality, there are some cases where optimism is rational still.

When reality is set aside, the utility of rationality can be marginal. Yesterday I overheard a young boy ask his mother if it was as hot on Tatooine as in the current day here in the NW ( it was over a hundred degrees at the time.) The optimistic answers in these posts, from the show and in your brain really only matter in that boys conception of a fictional planet.

If we agree to this, I have hope.

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Daniel

Monday, August 1, 2022 -- 5:49 PM

Is this something on which

Is this something on which you could elaborate? Do you intend to assert that optimistic hopes can only be justified when they are for imaginary objects?

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Thursday, August 4, 2022 -- 8:10 PM

The work is in the premise.

The work is in the premise. If we disagree then there is no objective hope, which isn't to say some hope does not have an object. The same can not be said of optimism. Morton, Michael and Cornel West disambiguate optimism and hope but you don't. I do. The folk don't. If we can't agree then we need to change our premises. I don't think there is much hope of that. Is that the object?

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Sunday, August 14, 2022 -- 5:21 PM

--Hopelessness with regards

--Hopelessness with regards to premise-alteration for the purpose of mutual agreement? --Hardly. Hope, used in language to refer to a special variety of desire which is non-casual, can only correspond to subjective phenomena, even where an aggregate of hope-phenomena describes something collective. Talking about "objective hope" (second sentence above) is therefore nonsense, unless one is talking about object-based hopes, in which case it's a redundant tautology. As has been indicated above, optimism comes in two varieties: passive and active. The passive in turn is divided between the best already which is believed and the better yet to come which is awaited. The single active form can be described as a collaboration between the possible and the real, where subject and object are predicated by both respectively, fluctuating according to context. The simple fact that subjective hopes and outwardly optimistic outlooks must be intimately related and can include identical objects does not mean that they are not distinguished from one another. Your claim that my view does not do so is therefore asinine, --an expression the crudeness of which is here deemed permissible on account of the high number of hope/optimism-distinctions made in the course of the foregoing. But one question on your point here remains: What premise is referred to in the first sentence? Are you speaking of your own with regards to non-terrestrial contents?

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Tim Smith

Monday, August 15, 2022 -- 6:01 AM

If we don't come to terms we

If we don't come to terms we won't learn. You are welcome to your view. I would distinguish further hope and optimism. Others do as well. Doing so allows one to see the hidden premises of hope. Your view obscures that premise.

I can't move a mountain, but I can enjoy the sea.

This topic touches you more deeply than it does me. I'm not sure why, but it gives me pause to consider what you say without calling out nonsense.

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Daniel

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 -- 1:30 PM

Interesting take. So what's

Interesting take. So what's the "hidden premise of hope" which emerges only after further distinctions other than subject and object, present and absent, and desired and feared, are identified? Sharing this would not only be of great benefit for my part, so that my view would no longer be obscuring it, but for anyone else who reads it, promising pessimism-flight from remote corners of the spirit. For the one you offer above, distinguishing between sitting on the beach and pushing on a mountain to see if it moves, does not escape the subject/object dichotomy. First I suppose one would have to identify the non-hidden, apparent premise of hope, so that it wouldn't be mistaken for the hidden one. The account I've provided describes this as subjective non-casual desire. How's the hidden one different?

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Daniel

Tuesday, August 2, 2022 -- 12:44 PM

Or is it the case that mental

Or is it the case that mental representations in minds of biological systems which have a greater expected duration than can be measured of their past, i.e. in the youthful, are the only kind for which corresponding objects not existing in the present are likely to exist in the future?

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Tuesday, August 2, 2022 -- 7:16 PM

It would not be immodest if a

It would not be immodest if a claim be made that these questions lack aimlessness. For what you've attempted here is a deep phenomenology of the real non-existence of executant objects of optimistic predication. If anything associated with them which contains a claim of being real is bracketed so as to be set aside outside of consideration, the resultant marginal utility of rational choice between merely apparent alternatives, which in your example is between qualitatively identical experiences of warmth caused by identical measures of temperature of two different planets, our own and a fictional one, then only the phenomenon of warmth can be included in analysis, not what the thermometer measures. Permissible therefore would it be for it to be equally hot on both but at different temperatures also, without having to consider which is real or not. But on the remote chance that there is such a planet on which a species exists which is equally hot at a different temperature, and a similar phenomenological exercise is performed by a member of this species about our own planet, of which no knowledge is had but which nevertheless happens to be true, does marginal utility of rational choice become indistinguishable from rational utility of marginal choice, where the range of choices is limited to which planet is warmer? And if the boy's mother was an astrophysicist, would the example be of the same thing?

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Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, July 31, 2022 -- 3:52 PM

Hi, Tim. Been awhile. My

Hi, Tim. Been awhile. My attention has been on other questions, not addressed herein. Other sources of information are not at all all-knowing---some, downright crazy. As implied, if not explicit, my view holds that optimism and rationality are non-overlapping magisteria. You can have one without the other. So, again, in my humble opinion, the question is not the right one. I may return to PT, if permitted. But not right now. Look for Kauffman, Little, Messner and others. Not advertising the venue here. Do not wish to burn bridges.
Always, warmest regards,
HGN.

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Sunday, July 31, 2022 -- 6:09 PM

Sounds good Harold. Glad to

Sounds good Harold. Glad to see you posting here again.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Sunday, July 31, 2022 -- 4:41 PM

Rationality is the quality

Rationality is the quality which something has when it is predicated by Reason, or determination by concepts alone. The question of the rationality of optimism itself is therefore abstract and almost nonsensical. But one can inquire into the rationality of certain courses of action which are considered as optimistic. In the terminal diagnosis case, for example, the concepts themselves, both empirical, as e.g. the results of a blood test, and non-empirical, as with the presupposition that biological necropsy is an inevitability for the living individual, determine the rationality of one course of action over another, without the aid of experience associated with the internal reasonableness of the decision which is made by the patient. For this reason Rationality is a kind of objectivity, and contains a claim of validity which is not dependent on individual experience. Similarly with the climate change example, just putting the concepts together which are gathered from induction generates recommendations for a rational course of action without having to refer to associated experiences of inhalation of smoke from wildfires or suffering heat stroke. The question of optimism's rationality as a general concept on the other hand only makes sense if one is asking whether or not optimism and rationality are the same thing. If so, participant Neuman's condition of not overlapping with each other would be fulfilled.

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Daniel

Thursday, August 4, 2022 -- 12:20 PM

In the interest of summary,

In the interest of summary, and to assist in providing some exportable form to the meandering forgoing, corrections and notation of deficiencies are welcomed from the forum's coauthors and interested others.

The page begins with the premise of optional objective form and the notion that some object or combination of objects is already the best it can be, so that one's future in respect to it/them is a theoretical matter, depending on what one knows about it/them. Sensibility and irritability with regards to noticeable and anticipated characteristics describes a correspondence between a theoretical disposition and an epistemic accommodation, rather than a desired object and an estimate of its likelihood.

Where the range of anticipatable objects however is reduced to only those which threaten the individual or collectivity with annihilation, a favorable or unfavorable disposition becomes a practical matter, the choice of which is underdetermined by theoretical grounds. In practical terms, the unfavorable disposition is excluded even if achievement-probability is miniscule, because one still bets on it in rejection of the alternative. Climate change turns out to be just such a case, and suggestion is made that human rights be expanded to include vegetables, which would have the effect of protecting forested areas which are needed as a component of a solution.

Kant makes a similar distinction in section II of "The Canon of Pure Reason" with the questions of what can be known (theoretical), what ought to be done (practical), and what can be hoped for (both theoretical and practical). If one grants that human survival under terrestrial conditions into the near future is commendably advocated in a practical sense so that theoretical grounds sufficient for the exclusion of alternates can be forgone, then it appears that the third question contains the promise of practical legislation of the domain of theoretical reason, but only insofar as risk of extinction is not avoided.

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