3. Ancient Greek Philosophy
4. Mythological Relations
5. The Evolution of Hope
6. Hope and Faith
‘Hope & Optimism, Conceptual and Empirical Investigations’ is the name of a three year project (running in 2014, 2015 and 2016) that is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and is executed by Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame.1 The project “explores the theoretical, empirical, and practical dimensions of hope, optimism, and related states”.2 This contemplation aims at contributing to the aforementioned exploration. For this the emphasis shall be laid on the concept of hope. Taking hope as our point of departure and as our prime subject of contemplation the concept of optimism too may come in view.
Often etymologies of to be contemplated concepts offer good entrances into these concepts. This entrance remains however very much closed where the concept of hope is concerned. For its etymological roots remain obscure.3 The English ‘hope’ belongs to a Germanic family of words to which also the Dutch ‘hoop’ and German ‘Hoffnung’ belong, but that is about all there can be said about it. The meanings of these Germanic words are explicated in the dictionaries in a similar way. The English dictionary gives to ‘hope’ the primal meaning of “[e]xpectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation”.4 The Dutch dictionary mentions ‘hoop’ to be the “expectation, wish that something pleasant will become reality”.5 And the German dictionary explicates ‘Hoffnung’ as the “expectation, outlook on something futural".6 What these meanings have in common is that they mention hope to be a type of expectation. Now expectations can be of two kinds. One can expect something good to happen and one can expect something evil to happen. And hope then is understood as the expectation of something good. Now the English ‘expectation’ is derived from the Latin word ‘expectāre’.7 This word is thought to consists of the words ‘ex’, meaning ‘out’, and ‘(s)pectāre’, meaning ‘to look’, making an expectation understandable as a looking out.8, 9 In this line then can hope be understood as a looking out on something good. But in this hope is not unique. A wish for instance can also be understood as a looking out on something good.10 The difference between the two however is that in a wish the regarded good is not considered as a possibility while in a hope it is. The English word ‘wish’ shares with the Dutch ‘wens’ and the German ‘Wunsch’ the Indo-European root ‘*wun-, *wen-, or *won-,11 which has the same meaning.12 So in a wish one looks out on an impossible good while in a hope one looks out on a possible good. But again is hope not unique in this. For there are more ways to look out on a possible good. And optimism is one of these ways. The difference between hope and optimism is however that in hope the possibility of the good is deemed unlikely to realize while in optimism it is deemed likely to realize. That makes hope then a looking out on an unlikely possible good. And optimism can in this line of contemplation then be understood as a looking out on a likely possible good.12 The English word ‘optimism’ is rooted in the Latin ‘optimus’,13, 14 meaning ‘the best’.15 Now ‘the best’ in optimism may refer to the to be realized good to be the best, but it may also refer to the best choice between the likeliness or the unlikeliness of a possible good, which is the likeliness. So in optimism the likeliness of a possible good is held higher than in hope because in the choice between hope and optimism the latter is the best. However this likeliness is not a maximal likeliness. For this is held in faith. In faith one looks out to a maximal likely possible good. But since a likeliness finds its maximum in a necessity can faith be understood as a looking out on a necessary good.16 The English word ‘faith’ can through the Latin ‘fidēs’,17 carrying meanings pertaining to trust and belief,18 and the Greek ‘phistis’, carrying similar meanings,19 be traced back to the Indo-European ‘*bhidh-‘ or ‘*bhoidh-‘,20 which can very likely be given similar meanings. When we thus overview the above explications we come to see an outlook on a good as a wish when seen as impossible, as a hope when seen as an unlikely possibility, as an optimism when seen as a likely possibility and as a faith when seen as a necessity.
Besides outlooks on goods however are outlooks on evils also possible. And as evil is the opposite of good one might expect the existence of terms opposite to the aforementioned ‘wish’, ‘hope’, ‘optimism’ and ‘faith’. And indeed. The word ‘wish’ for instance is set in contrast with (though not set as antonym of) words like ‘repudiation’ and ‘refusal’.21 ‘Hope’ is given its antonym in ‘despair’ and ‘despond’.22 ‘Optimism’ finds its well-known antonym in ‘pessimism’.23 And ‘faith’ has its antonym in ‘doubt’.24 Some of these opposites need a bit of fine-tuning. ‘Pessimism’ as an antonym of ‘optimism’ doesn’t really need this. It is clear that as in optimism one looks out to a likely possible good that in pessimism one looks out to a likely possible evil. As an antonym of ‘hope’ seems ‘despondence’ more in place than ‘despair’, given the meanings that these words carry. The word ‘despair’ seems best in place where one is faced with an inevitable and necessary evil and all hope is lost. In such a case one does not see any possibility to avoid the evil and one thus looks out in despair. However the antonym of ‘hope’ that we seek needs to be used when one looks out to an unlikely evil instead of a necessary evil. And since in a despondence still possibilities are seen to avoid the regarded evil is ‘despondence’ a better antonym of ‘hope’ than ‘despair’.25 ‘Despair’ then can be reserved as an antonym of ‘faith’. For as faith regards an outlook on a necessary good regards despair an outlook on a necessary evil. Now ‘despondence’ as a word is not so much used as is ‘hope’. And as an antonym of ‘hope’ that is more popular in use can be taken ‘anxiety’. For when one looks out to an unlikely possible evil one may start to feel anxious.26 When this unlikely possible evil then becomes likely anxiety passes into fear.27 Fear then takes the same place as does pessimism and although ‘pessimism’ is not considered as an synonym of ‘fear’28, 29 do pessimism and fear go hand in hand. For both regard a lookout on a likely possible evil. So what about the antonym of ‘wish’? Above ‘repudiation’ and ‘refusal’ were mentioned. Of these is ‘repudiation’ probably the best choice. In a wish one looks out on an impossible good, so its opposite should indicate a lookout on an impossible evil. ‘Repudiation’ qualifies for this. For in a repudiation a repulsive evil is seen that however does not invoke anxiety because of its impossibility, just as in a wish an attractive good is seen that however does not invoke hope because of its impossibility. In the figure below an overview is given of what has been explicated so far under this paragraph.
|Unlikely Possible||Despondence / Anxiety|
|Likely Possible||Pessimism / Fear|
In the previous paragraph an understanding of hope and optimism was sought out through the entrance of etymology. Although this entrance remained very much closed due to the obscurity of the etymological roots of ‘hope’ nevertheless some understanding could be formed through contemporary linguistic definitions and antonyms. When mythology is taken as an entrance into the concept of hope we shall see however that the door is wide open. For ancient Greece is often mentioned as the ‘cradle of Western civilization’ because it is considered as the root of it.30 Now at the core of this ancient Greek culture is found the well-known Greek mythology as it is expressed in the works of Homer (c. 900 or c. 800 B.C.) and Hesiod (c. 700 B.C.).31, 32 And in the works Theogony and Work and Days of the latter is found a myth in which hope plays a key role. No better mythological entrance can probably be found into the Western concept of hope than in Hesiod’s ancient Greek myth about Pandora.33, 34
The story of Pandora starts actually with Prometheus. This titan, maker of men,35 had offended Zeus. He hid the best meat of an ox away in its stomach and covered its bones with fat to mislead Zeus in choosing the latter as an offering. As a revenge Zeus withheld the fire of the gods from humans, however Prometheus stole it and brought it in a hollow fennel stalk to them. Again Zeus was outraged and from there the story of Pandora evolves. As a revenge Zeus let Hephaestus forge from earth and water a beautiful maiden with a face like the immortal goddess. Goddesses like Athena, Aphrodite, and others further dressed her up with beautiful clothes, jewelry and flowers and then Hermes installed in her lies, guileful words and a thievish character. The beautiful maiden was named ‘Pandora’ meaning ‘all-gifts’ or ‘all-gifted’, and was taken by Hermes as a gift to Epimetheus. Despite the warning of his brother Prometheus not to accept gifts from Zeus Epimetheus nevertheless accepted the gift. Then Pandora removed the lid from her storage jar and all evils for humans, who up till then had been living apart from evil, flew out. Only hope however remained in the jar because Pandora had, according to Zeus’ instructions, placed the lid back on the jar before hope could fly out.
So what can this myth teach us anent hope? First of all it must be noticed that hope was brought to humanity in a jar as one of the evils. The ancient Greek people considered hope as an evil. They did so because they seemed to think that hope would induce bad thoughts and lethargy. For a man who hopes for his means of life does not take action to provide them.36 However hope as an evil is set apart from all the other evils. The other evils flew out and hope stayed inside the jar. These other evils are not specified but more generally indicated as being toils and diseases. Now what hope distinguishes from toils and diseases is that the latter are evils of the outside world while hope belongs exclusively to the inner realm. Indeed can there also be inner toils and diseases, however these are not exclusively inner states. Hope however is. Toils and diseases can strike man in the objective world however hope always remains in man’s subjective realm. The jar in the myth of Pandora then may symbolize man’s subjectivity. Toil and diseases were placed in the world but hope remained inside.
Now it must be mentioned here that the ‘hope’ in the above myth is a general used translation of the Greek word ‘elpis’ or (or ‘ὲλϕίς’).37 The connotations of ‘elpis’ are however a bit wider than those of ‘hope’. For ‘elpis’ may also refer to a thing like fear.38 And with hope being directed towards a certain good and fear towards a certain evil can ‘elpis’ also be understood as the more neutral anticipation or expectation (which can both be directed towards either good or evil).39, 40 This Greek word is thought to stem from the root ‘elo’ (or ‘ἕλω’) referring to a grasping with the mind.41 This then acknowledges hope being as a subjective given. For that ‘elpis’ does not exclusively refer to hope does not mean that the conclusions anent hope found in the myth of Pandora are invalid. Given the conclusions of paragraph 1 it may seem as a contradiction to see a word like ‘elpis’ being translatable both with ‘hope’ and ‘fear’. For in figure 1 of that paragraph was fear placed at the side of evil, being the opposite to good, where hope was placed. Fear however is not the direct opposite of hope. For that is anxiety. This needs some elucidation. Hope was mentioned as an outlook on an unlikely possible good, anxiety as an outlook on an unlikely possible evil and fear as an outlook on a likely possible evil. Now it can be said that anxiety is a singular opposite of hope while fear is a dual opposite of hope. Anxiety is a singular opposite of hope because in the definition of both only one pair of opposites occurs, namely that of good and evil. Fear and hope however know in their definitions two opposites, namely those of good and evil and that of unlikeliness and likeliness. And the latter pair of opposites make in combination with the former pair of opposites fear not opposed to hope but complimentary to it. The earlier mentioned ‘anticipation’ and ‘expectation’ as translations of ‘elpis’ combine in themselves both translations of ‘hope’ and ‘fear’. For a likely possible evil complements an unlikely possible good. When one anticipates on or expects for instance a ten percent change on a good, thus hoping, one at the same time anticipates on or expects a ninety percent change on an evil. So where the English word ‘hope’ only defines the anticipation on or expectation of an unlikely good there does the Greek ‘elpis’ define the same plus the anticipation on or expectation of a likely evil. The figure below gives an overview.
|Anticipation / Expectation|
That hope goes along with fear can also be found through a Hebrew myth that is in its general lines very analogous to the myth of Pandora. In the myth of Pandora we saw a primary male humanity living free from sorrow and evil. With the appearance of a woman however do also sorrows and evil appear. And this appearance goes along with the obtaining of the fire of the gods. Now this line of features can also clearly be seen in the Hebrew myth of Adam and Eve as it is told in Genesis.42 There the male Adam is the first human, living without sorrow and evil in the Garden of Eden. Then the woman Eve appears. Being beguiled by the serpent to eat the fruit from the tree that bestows knowledge of good and evil they become akin to God, and as a punishment Adam and Eve, the humans, are banned from the Garden of Eden and forced to live a sorrowful life. Thus the myth of Adam and Eve follows the same line as the myth of Pandora, as is shown in the figure below.
|Pandora||Adam and Eve||Description|
|Epimetheus||Adam||Primary male humanity|
|Pandora||Eve||Secondary female humanity|
|Prometheus||Serpent||Provider for humanity to become akin to the gods or God|
|Hollow fennel stalk||Tree of knowledge of good and evil||Medium for or carrier of the given that makes humanity become akin to the gods or God|
|Jar||Fruit||Medium for or carrier of sorrow and evil|
|Fire of the gods||Knowledge of good and evil||The given making humanity become akin to the gods or God|
So where in the myth of Adam and Eve do we find the counterpart of elpis of the myth of Pandora? Basically it can be said that elpis is the result of the whole of the above happenings in the myth of Pandora. Now although in the myth of Adam and Eve no result of the mentioned happenings is explicated can this result be induced through the analogy with the myth of Pandora. For it can be induced that hope and fear, the constituents of elpis, result from the knowledge of good and evil. For good is hoped for and evil is feared. And the knowledge of the former two brings about the latter two. Not for nothing is ‘elpis’ thought to be derived from ‘elo’ (or ‘ἕλω’), meaning ‘to seize with the mind’.43
We find the above conclusion acknowledged when we turn our attention for a moment from mythology towards ancient philosophy. This is historically a smaller step than it appears to be, for the ancient Greek philosophers themselves were still standing with one leg in the mythology of their time and place. This is especially the case with Socrates (c. 470 B.C.-399 B.C.) who is often mentioned as the first Western philosopher.44 He himself did not write because he thought rather low of it,45 but his thoughts have been preserved by Plato (428/427 B.C.-337/336 B.C.)46 whose writings often portray a discourse of Socrates.47 It is because of this that it is sometimes difficult to distinct between Socrates’ and Plato’s philosophy, for sometimes Plato seems to use the figure of Socrates to explicate his own thoughts.48 Here we shall only refer Plato for the entirety of their thought. So what does Plato have to say about hope, or more precisely elpis? In Philebus Plato sketches Socrates in conversation with Protarchus about knowledge being more important for the human good than pleasure.49 In this conversation for a moment elpis comes under consideration. Socrates there defines elpis as the occasion where pain and pleasure are simultaneously undergone.50 For in elpis one experiences pain in the lack of a good but one experiences at the same time pleasure in the outlook on the fulfilment of that good.51 In this view does a human derive pleasure from good (being the fulfilment of that good) and pain from evil (being the lack of that good). And hope and fear then are derivations from a simultaneous outlook on good and evil. Thus we see our findings in the myths of Pandora and Adam and Eve acknowledged in the ancient Greek philosophy of Socrates and Plato.
In the previous paragraphs was hope thematized from the ancient Greek concept of elpis. Elpis however was more than just a concept. Because when written with a capital E was Elpis (or Ἐλϕίς) also thought of as a goddess.52 This is for instance also the case in the myth of Pandora where Hesiod writes Elpis with a capital E.53 Now the clearest relation of Elpis is of course with Pandora. For it is Pandora who brings Elips to humanity. It can be said here that Pandora most primary symbolizes humanity’s conception of duality, for she does this in different ways. We see this first in the way how Pandora comes to being. She is created full of beauty but is at the same time endowed with the ugliness of lies and theft. This regards also the duality of appearance and reality. For she appears beautiful but is in reality ugly. Another duality is seen in Pandora traveling from the gods to the humans. She originates from the immortal realm of the gods to take her place in the mortal realm of humans. This also can be seen as a symbol for the duality between origin and result and the duality between the metaphysical and the physical world. Then Pandora plays the role of the archetypical and first woman, bringing the one humanity to its duality of men and women. And as we have seen earlier does the appearance of Pandora among humans go along with the gaining of the fire of the gods, which can be regarded as the knowledge of good and evil, which regards the knowledge of duality. And it is by such a knowledge that hope or Elpis is being brought in. And since it is Prometheus who brought the fire of the gods to the humans can Elpis be mythologically constructed as a daughter of Prometheus and Pandora. For regarding her parents nothing is explicated in the ancient Greek legacies.
About the parents of Elpis nothing is said in the ancient Greek legacies, however in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King Phama (or Φάμα) is mentioned as a daughter of her.54 She is also known as Pheme (or Φήμη) and regards the goddess of rumour.55 It is from her name (and from the corresponding Greek concept) that the English word ‘fame’ is derived.56 ‘Pheme’ itself can be further traced back to the Indo-European root ‘*bhā-‘, referring to speech.57 Not for nothing is Pheme thought of as many tongued.58 So what does it mean that Pheme is the daughter of Elpis? Basically it means that rumour or talk originates in hope (or expectation when ‘elpis’ is more neutrally translated). A hope as an expectation is an outlook on a possibility and not on an actuality. The actuality of the possibility may already be there, however in hope this is in such a case not (yet) looked upon. And the same goes for a rumour. Rumours explicate possibilities but not actualities. The actualities may possibly be there, however in rumours they are not yet verified. One could say, to create a potential famous philosophical one-liner, that rumours are the axioms of the people.59, 60 And hope initiates them. Hope does so because it is a subjective expectancy while rumours are objectified expectancies. And since objectifications can be traced back to subjectivities can rumours as objectified expectancies be traced back to subjective expectancies such as hope. (Note that the word ‘objectification’ here is used in distinction with the word ‘object’). So hope, born from conceptions of duality, gives birth to rumours. Below an overview is given.
|Prometheus bringing the fire of the gods||Pandora bringing the knowledge of duality or of good and evil|
|Elpis as hope or expectation|
|Pheme as talk or rumour|
Much of what has been thematized up till now has been derived from Hesiod’s myth of Pandora. This because hope is given such a prominent place in that myth. The thematization of hope is however not confined to Hesiod’s works. And the conceptions and connotations of hope are also not limited to those of Hesiod. This we shall see in this paragraph where the evolution of hope shall be thematized.
As we have seen does hope occur prominently in Hesiod’s myth of Pandora. Now Hesiod is mentioned as one of the first Greek poets (along with Homer who is placed a bit before Hesiod). His works are thought to have come to being around 850 B.C.61 after which they found their flourishing times around 700 B.C.62 So it was in those times that hope was conceived by the Greek people as described in some of the previous paragraphs. Hope was thought of as an aspect of expectation (or elpis) and elpis was considered as an evil. As mentioned earlier it was thought of as such because it would make people lethargic. This shall probably be one of the reasons that Elpis as a goddess was not much worshipped in ancient Greece.63
After Hesiod we see Elpis again appear in Pindar’s works. Pindar lived between c. 518 B.C. and c. 438 B.C.64 As a goddess she is mentioned as the nurse of old age and chief ruler of the changeful minds of men.65, 66 That Pindar describes Elpis as the nurse of old age connects to the idea of Hesiod that Elpis remains with the humans while all other evils flew into the world to torment them from the outside. For at old age especially are people struck by diseases and by death, and at having reached that old age of being tormented by evils does Elpis stay with those people. Elpis is however also described by Pindar as the chief ruler of man’s changeful mind. This can be understood because expectations and hopes can be very fleeting and, as Pindar puts it, being “tossed, now high, now low, as they cleave the treacherous sea of fancies vain”.67 It is clear that expectation or hope as the ruler of the changeful minds of men does not have a good connotation with Pindar. Hope is further also mocked as related to “pangs of madness” that come from “unattainable longings” and as such set in contrast with true “foreknowledge”.68 So where Hesiod mentions expectation or hope as the cause of the vice of lethargy there does Pindar mention it as the cause of the vice of greed.
In the works of Sophocles, who lived between c. 496 B.C. and 406,69 is Elpis as goddess only mentioned as golden and as mother of Phama.70 Elpis as a concept with a lower case letter however is interestingly mentioned in his work Antigone. There expectation as hope is mentioned to be an evil in the disguise of a good.71, 72 This can be taken as a sign that in Sophocles’ time the thought of expectation or hope as a good creeps in. It is still a good as the disguise of an intrinsic evil and the emphasis is still on expectation as an evil, however that the idea of a good is here connected to expectation is nevertheless of import.
This idea of Sophocles of elpis as both evil and good we already saw further worked out by Socrates and Plato. For Socrates was mentioned to define elpis as the occasion where pain (derived from evil) and pleasure (derived from good) are simultaneously undergone. For in expectation or hope one looks out to a fulfilment while experiencing a lack of that fulfilment. When we confine that definition to Socrates, who lived from c. 470 B.C. to 399 B.C., then we see Plato, living from 428/427 B.C. to 337/336 B.C., evolving the conception of elpis as related to a good even further. For in Definitions he defines elpis as “the expectation of good”.73 Alongside with elpis moving towards the conception of being something good we then also see a movement from elpis being understood as expectancy towards elpis being understood as hope.
This line of conception of elpis is further displayed in the works of Aristotle (384 B.C.-322 B.C.).74 Hope in his works still keeps its function of disguising what is real, for it is mentioned as a way to appear brave while the latter is not really the case.75 However its connotation, as hope, has become with Aristotle much more positive. It is even mentioned as an accompaniment of virtue.76
The Greek era came to a definite end with the battle at Actium at 31 B.C. In this battle did the Romans defeat the Greeks and the Roman era made its entry.77 Now the Romans adopted much (though not all) from the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses, giving them their own Latin names.78 Thus became the Greek Elpis as the goddess representing expectation and hope in Roman mythology the goddess Spes, representing the same.79 Now Spes was in the Roman world much more revered than Elpis in the Greek world, indicating that Romans in their time looked much more positive towards expectation or hope.
A breakthrough in the evolution of hope however occurs when the Greek and Roman religions with their gods and goddesses are replaced by Christianity, especially since the conversion of emperor Constantine in the 4th century A.D.80 Elpis and spes are now not thought of anymore as goddesses but only considered as non-anthropomorphic concepts. Now since The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and The New Testament in Greek do we find the concept of elpis only in the latter (although the Hebrew language has of course, also in The Old Testament, its own words to express similar concepts). And in The New Testament is elpis, or hope, mentioned as one of the three virtues. We find this in the first epistle of Paul the apostle to the Corinthians where the reader is called on to abide in faith, hope and (especially) charity.81 This hope is however not the hope for fulfilment of some earthly pleasure but the hope for transcendence of earthly matters into the glory of God through Christ.82, 83 Interesting here is that hope is mentioned as a virtue along with faith. For in paragraph 1 was faith also mentioned along with hope. Where hope was defined as an outlook on an unlikely possible good there was faith defined as an outlook on a necessary good. This view can be seen in line with the Biblical view that “faith is the substance of things hoped for”84 when it is considered that necessity is the substance of possibility like gold is the substance of golden things. More attention to the relation between faith and hope shall be given in the next paragraph.
So it is through the above described conceptions that that during the Christian era in Europe hope as a virtue was promulgated. Two important authors for this were Augustine of Hippo (354-430)85 and Thomas Aquinas (1224/1225-1274)86 because they both thematized hope as a theological virtue. With so many centuries of Christian faith it shall not be hard to understand that the Western consciousness has been imbibed with the idea of hope as something good.87 Against the background of many centuries of Christian indoctrination did the secularization of Europe set in just recently and although the thought of hope as a theological virtue may have disappeared from the contemporary secular consciousness shall its positive Christian connotations still reverberate in the collective consciousness of Western culture and thus in the use of the term.
So what lines can be discovered in the above sketch of hope throughout Western history? We see in ancient Greece the concept of elpis being anthropomorphized as the goddess Elpis. One goes with another. In the times of Hesiod and Pindar this elpis is understood primarily as expectation and as an evil. In the times of Sophocles this evil elpis is clothed in a good appearance making it seem good while it actually is not. Under Plato does elpis become defined as the expectation of good, making elpis not only primarily understandable as expectation but also as hope. Aristotle then as a first relates elpis to virtuousness, giving it clearly a good connotation. In the early Roman period this was acknowledged by the increased worship of Spes, the Roman counterpart of the Greek Elpis. This conception of elpis or spes as something good paved the way for elpis to be embraced as a theological virtue during the Christian period. With the appearance of Western translations of The New Testament was ‘hope’ as a translation of ‘elpis’ the closest to the connotations of elpis at that time. Connotations that still reverberate in the contemporary secular use of the word ‘hope’. Thus we see in the evolution of elpis a line of conception from evil to good and a line of conception from expectation to hope.
Now in paragraph 1 it was already found that when an expectation is turned towards a(n unlikely) good the expectation becomes a hope. And above in this this paragraph we have seen that where elpis is concerned the evolution of its conception from expectation to hope runs parallel with the evolution of its conception from vice to virtue or from evil to good. From these findings it may then carefully be induced that in the course of history hope is generally considered as something good and that the expectancy which is not a hope is not. Taking these general lines (and not the individual citations that enabled us to find these general lines) it can also be induced that an expectancy that is turned towards a(n unlikely) evil, being anxiety, is something evil and that an expectancy that is nor turned towards a(n unlikely) good nor towards a(n unlikely) evil is either neutral or both good and evil. (This dual conception of elpis is found a lot in ancient Greek writings).88 And it can then also be induced that elpis as an evil was dominantly understood as anxiety and also that this understanding had its sway in prehistoric Greek times (of which the conception of Hesiod of elpis as evil then must be seen as a reverberation of those prehistoric conceptions). We see this summarized in figure 5 below where the inducements are given a grey color.
|Ancient Greece||Expectation||Neutral / Dual|
|Christian and Contemporary Western Civilization||Hope||Good|
In the previous paragraph was mentioned that the Biblical statement that “faith is the substance of things hoped for” is in line with the thought of faith being an outlook on a necessary good and hope being an outlook on a(n unlikely) possible good when it is considered that necessity is the substance of possibility like gold is the substance of golden things. This is so because like all golden things exist within gold as substance and the latter consists of the first do all possibilities exist within necessity and does necessity consist of all possibilities. This is an axiom that cannot be further elucidated here. But if it is accepted that all possibilities exist within necessity and that the latter consists of the first (and if the definitions of hope and faith are accepted as well) then it must also be accepted that all hopes exist within faith and that faith consists of all hopes.
Of interest here is to mention that the original Greek word that is translated in the above cited Biblical passage with ‘faith’ regards ‘pistis’.89 Now Pistis when written with a capital P is in Greek mythology the name of the goddess of faith and is by Theognis mentioned in one breath with Elpis.90 So also through the mythological entrance we see hope as related to faith. Probably accidentally but nevertheless interestingly we see also the symbol of hope, the anchor, being based upon the symbol of faith, the Christian cross. For the cross is contained in the anchor and thus is also symbolically a close relation between hope and faith acknowledged.
In the first paragraph was optimism already mentioned and etymologically considered. Optimism was mentioned to be rooted in the Latin ‘optimus’, meaning ‘the best’. Now from this word ‘optimus’ was created the French word ‘optimisme’ by the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)91 in his work Theodicy.92, 93 The term was used to indicate that God, being the only first cause and being perfect in power, wisdom and goodness,94 created the best actual world of all the possible worlds that He could have created.95 So initially ‘optimism’ referred to the actuality as being the best. In course of time however its connotation shifted and nowadays in everyday language ‘optimism’ refers generally to the expectancy of a betterment. Optimism in contemporary days regards the outlook on a likely possible good, as was mentioned in paragraph 1. So where in Leibniz’ conception of optimism the best possible world is the actual world, there is in contemporary conceptions of optimism the best possible world a to be world.
Now the ‘optimum’ of Leibniz is usually translated with ‘the best’. The optimal possible world is the best possible world. For Leibniz it was the world that God in his perfect power, wisdom and goodness chose and for contemporary humans it is the world that they choose above the actual world. This links optimism to choice and although it is not explicated in established etymology it is very likely that the Latin ‘optimus’ is derived from ‘optō’ or ‘optāre’, which refers to choosing.96 With this ‘optimism’ can be regarded as an etymological sibling of ‘option’, which has the same root.97 And thus can optimism also be understood as the outlook on a likely option.
We set out to explore the concept of hope whereby it was expected that the concept of optimism would come in view too. In paragraph 1 etymology was taken as a starting point. Hope was defined as the outlook on an unlikely possible good and as such related to optimism as the outlook on a likely possible good, faith as the outlook on a necessary good and wish as the outlook on an impossible good. The opposites of these four were found in repudiation as the outlook on an impossible evil, anxiety as the outlook on an unlikely possible evil, pessimism or fear as the outlook on a likely possible evil and despair as the outlook on a necessary evil.
In paragraph 2 mythology, and the myth of Pandora in particular, was taken as an entrance into exploring hope. Elpis being the Greek concept of hope was found to be considered an evil dwelling in man’s subjectivity, in contrary to the evils such as toil, disease and death dwelling in the objective world. It was also found that ‘elpis’ does not only refer to hope but also to expectancy and fear, with the emphasis on expectancy. This was considered as sane since hope as the outlook on an unlikely good is coupled with fear as the outlook on a likely evil. Through a comparison with the Hebrew myth of Adam and Eve was hope further mentioned as arising from the knowledge of good and evil. This statement was backed in paragraph 3 by Socrates / Plato who thought that in hope pleasure (derived from good) and pain (derived from evil) are experienced at the same time.
From the conclusion that hope arises from the knowledge of good and evil was in paragraph 4, where in short the relations of the goddess Elpis were explored, Prometheus (representing the arising knowledge) and Pandora (representing the duality of good and evil) were assigned as her parents. Pheme was found to be Elpis’ daughter, bringing us to the conclusion that from hope arises rumour.
In paragraph 5 then the larger line of evolution of elpis was explored as it developes from the prehistory through ancient Greece, Rome and Christian Europe into contemporary Western culture. It was found that as elpis evolves from being understood as anxiety through expectation into hope it also evolves from being valued evil through neutral or dual to good.
In paragraph 1 faith was already coined with hope and because it was found in paragraph 5 that in Christianity they are again mentioned in one important passage their relation was given some extra attention in paragraph 6. It was stated that all possibilities exist within necessity and that the latter consists of the first, and that therefore all hopes exist within faith while faith consists of all hopes.
In paragraph 7 then optimism was taken separately under consideration and it was found that optimism too knows its development. Because from the time of Leibniz where it referred to the conception of the actual world as the best of all possible worlds it came in contemporary times to refer to the conception of a possible world to be as the best possible world.
The hope lingers that this exploration will be received optimistically.