The grand optimist : hope in the thought of J. P. Sartre and E. H. Erikson

Part of : Philosophical inquiry ; Vol.XXV, No.1-2, 2003, pages 145-159

Following Sartre’s later conception (1980) of hope as integral to action, an argument is developed for hope as the primal human energy that se ires to connect consciousness to the world, that motivates the continuation of human life in nihilation, that provides the meaning of existence, and that is the actual ground of human freedom. The primary ontological status of hope in Sartre’s thought is compared to Erikson’s ontogenetic theoiy of the primacy of hope in human psychosocial development. Since hope is both the basic life energy that supports growth, and the vehicle of meaning in Erikson’s thought, it is concluded that both thinkers equate life with hope at the level of existence itself. It is suggested that the systematic insights of both Sartre and Erikson underpin the philosophy and practice of the social sciences today, with little acknowledgement of their continuing influence. A parallel is drawn with the unacknowledged place of hope within the psychotherapeutic and social change paradigms, and it is hoped that professionals will promote the visionaiy experience with their client systems.
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