Hope and optimism are high-profile attitudes. Politicians invoke them, religious and business leaders promote them, psychologists cultivate them, self-help authors recommend them, artists explore and express them.
The press is interested too: over the past few years, articles in the L.A. Times, Washington Post,Time, and Atlantic have discussed their natures, sources, risks, and benefits.
Such popular discussions can and often do draw on empirical work by scientists like Michael Scheier, Tali Sharot, Martin Seligman, and C.R. Snyder. Philosophy, by comparison, has had less to offer: there has been little recent discussion of either attitude, and little awareness of the empirical research.
We find this unfortunate: hope and optimism are philosophically significant topics with a rich conceptual history – one that urgently needs updating in light of new empirical understanding.
Given the popular interest in these topics, the lack of interdisciplinary coverage of them, and their inherent significance, we propose a three-year project to bring philosophers, social scientists, and theologians together to generate new collaborative work on hope and optimism.
Along the way, we will seek to publicize our results in both academic and popular venues.
The main components of the project are:
1. Three large-scale RFPs for both empirical and conceptual researchers.
2. Two competitive residential fellows programs aimed primarily at philosophers and theologians.
3. A midpoint collaboration involving project participants, external speakers, and invited observers/press.
4. A major conference on the “Nature and Norms of Hope,” culminating in an edited volume.
5. Two public competitions resulting in original stage and video productions that explicitly explore hope and/or optimism in an illuminating way.
a. The Hope on Stage competition will also result in a staged reading in Los Angeles of the 2nd place play.
6. A 20-25 minute project documentary and a sponsored content series.