Session 7: Shifting Grounds of Hope and Indifference
Chair: Anna Feigenbaum
The Spirit of Hope and Its Near Enemy Indifference: A Phenomenological Continuum
Janette E. McDonald
Capital University, Behavioral Sciences, Bexley, Ohio, USA
A juxtaposition of hope and hopelessness is evident in our contemporary everyday lived experience. Regardless of what part of the world we live in, what social class we belong to, whatever our gender, age, racial or ethnic affiliation, religious or spiritual convictions, and educational or economic status, there are places in our lives where we experience hope, hopelessness, and indifference. Hope and hopelessness are close and intimate companions of each other. To borrow from Buddhist thought the near enemy of hope is indifference (Khema, 2001). Utilizing phenomenology as a method for understanding the essence of one’s life-world this paper explores the human phenomena of hope, hopelessness, and indifference. Questions addressed include: What are hope, hopelessness, and indifference? What are some of their differences and similarities? What motivates people to be hopeful? What are some possible reasons for their hopelessness? What are some of the consequences of indifference? Is it possible to learn or sustain hope? As a way to better grasp these three phenomena I suggest that one imagine them as part of a continuum. This paper explores their placement on that continuum and attempts to provide a contextual reason for that placement. Through an etymology of the words spiritus and pneuma, I suggest the broad notion that all people are spiritual because of their necessity to breath in and out. The breath or spirit that resides within each of us is what I further suggest is the rudimentary seed for hope. Attention is given to Frankl’s (1984) classic work on meaning in support of this concept. Moreover, I argue that it is often a hopeless situation which precipitates one’s movement to a state of being hopeful. Connections are also given to Buddhist thought as they relate to suffering and the cessation of suffering.
A Philosophical Analysis of the Act of Defining Hope
Miami University of Ohio, USA
Hope has been and continues to be a subject of interest within the diverse fields of philosophy, theology, psychology, medicine, and political science. Although it is understandable that theorists working within disparate disciplines approach this phenomenon from different perspectives and for a wide variety of research aims, it seems peculiar that the definitions of hope these scholars offer are so entirely dissimilar. Some philosophers have attempted to identify the essential conditions of hope. Other theorists warn that such a project has significant negative consequences; that focusing on attaining a universal understanding of what it means to engage in the activity of hoping reduces one’s appreciation of the richness of lived experiences of hope—especially concerning the particularity of the hoped-for object, the variety of cultural contexts in which hope arises, the effects of the age of the hoper on the way that the hope is taken up, and the myriad practical implications that this hope may engender. Some scholars even claim that a project of identifying the necessary characteristics by which a phenomenon can be identified as hope is futile, maintaining that the disparateness of lived experiences of hope would repudiate any general essence alleged to be exemplified in every activity of hoping. In this paper, I aim to discuss the contentious questions of whether it is possible to arrive at a single universal definition of hope, and if so, whether the effects of such an undertaking would be desirable. Although I answer both questions in the affirmative and advocate for the articulation of hope’s most general characteristics to serve as a critical standard for the variety of theorizations on the subject, I also emphasize that theorists have much to learn from the disparity of definitions of hope. Ultimately, I conclude that the journey of navigating through the many conceptions of hope produces a richer, more complex understanding of hope that is of greater practical significance for hope studies, though distinguishing the general characteristics of hope is an equally necessary endeavor.
From Cure to Quality of Life: The Shifting Meaning of Hope at the End of Life
Santa ClaraUniversity, Santa Clara, California, USA
A theme of life’s final chapter is the tension between hope and hopelessness. Unfortunately, many physicians and laypeople equate hope at the end of life with hope for a cure. This can lead to unfortunate consequences. According to a study by Curtis and colleagues, a key reason that physicians of patients with advanced AIDS do not discuss hospice when appropriate is that they fear it will destroy patients’ hope. Thus, many seriously ill individuals in the United States who may prefer hospice receive this referral only days or hours before death, while others not at all. Unfortunately, relatively little research addresses a wider meaning of hope at life’s end. At diagnosis, encouraged by available treatments, patients usually invest their hope in the goal of cure. This can lead to a “fighting spirit” and greater likelihood of cure. Unfortunately, many serious illnesses are not curable. Although some patients fall into hopelessness, others perform the difficult task of disengaging from the goal of cure and seeking other goals for which to hope. Such new goals often concern quality of life – e.g., resuming one’s hobbies, making amends with estranged family, or improving one’s relationship with the divine. Although healthcare professionals can be especially important in aiding patients in this “re-goaling” effort, the medical system generally is not well equipped to do so. In this paper, we use the Hope Theory perspective of psychologist
C. R. Snyder, which views hope as a goal-directed cognitive process, to widen the discussion of hope at life’s end. By means of extant research, theory, and case material, we discuss how the meaning of hope shifts as patients approach death.