Jonathan Lear

Jonathan
Lear
1948

American Philosopher, John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, Professor of Philosophy, Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium on Culture and Society at the University of Chicago

Author Quotes

For what may we hope? Kant put this question in the first-person singular along with two others ? ?What can I know?? and ?What ought I to do?? ? that he thought essentially marked the human condition. With two centuries of philosophical reflection, it seems that these questions are best transposed to the first-person plural. And with that same hindsight: rather than attempt an a priori inquiry, I would like to consider hope as it might arise at one of the limits of human existence? What makes this hope radical is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is. Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it. What would it be for such hope to be justified?

If we think of the virtues, or human excellences, as they are actually taught by cultures across history, it is plausible to expect that the virtuous person will be ready to tackle the wide variety of challenges that life might throw his way. It is unclear that there is anything in such training that will prepare him for the breakdown of the form of life itself. We would like our ethics to be grounded in psychological reality. Thus whatever flexibility is required of a virtuous person, it ought to be something that can be inculcated in the education and training of a culture. But a culture does not tend to train the young to endure its own breakdown ? and it is fairly easy to see why. A culture embodies a sense of life?s possibilities, and it tries to instill that sense in the young. An outstanding young member of the culture will learn to face these possibilities well.

The inability to conceive of its own devastation will tend to be the blind spot of any culture? A culture tends to propagate itself, and it will do that by instilling its own sense of possibility in the young.

To be human is necessarily to be a vulnerable risk-taker; to be a courageous human is to be good at it.

We rightly think that the virtue of courage requires a certain psychological flexibility. A courageous person must know how to act well in all sorts of circumstances. We recognize that there can be times in life when the stock images of courage will be inappropriate, and the truly courageous person will recognize this extraordinary situation and act in an unusual yet courageous way.

For what may we hope? Kant put this question in the first-person singular along with two others ? ?What can I know?? and ?What ought I to do?? ? that he thought essentially marked the human condition. With two centuries of philosophical reflection, it seems that these questions are best transposed to the first-person plural. And with that same hindsight: rather than attempt an a priori inquiry, I would like to consider hope as it might arise at one of the limits of human existence? What makes this hope radical is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is. Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it. What would it be for such hope to be justified?

If we think of the virtues, or human excellences, as they are actually taught by cultures across history, it is plausible to expect that the virtuous person will be ready to tackle the wide variety of challenges that life might throw his way. It is unclear that there is anything in such training that will prepare him for the breakdown of the form of life itself. We would like our ethics to be grounded in psychological reality. Thus whatever flexibility is required of a virtuous person, it ought to be something that can be inculcated in the education and training of a culture. But a culture does not tend to train the young to endure its own breakdown ? and it is fairly easy to see why. A culture embodies a sense of life?s possibilities, and it tries to instill that sense in the young. An outstanding young member of the culture will learn to face these possibilities well.

The inability to conceive of its own devastation will tend to be the blind spot of any culture? A culture tends to propagate itself, and it will do that by instilling its own sense of possibility in the young.

To be human is necessarily to be a vulnerable risk-taker; to be a courageous human is to be good at it.

We rightly think that the virtue of courage requires a certain psychological flexibility. A courageous person must know how to act well in all sorts of circumstances. We recognize that there can be times in life when the stock images of courage will be inappropriate, and the truly courageous person will recognize this extraordinary situation and act in an unusual yet courageous way.

First Name
Jonathan
Last Name
Lear
Birth Date
1948
Bio

American Philosopher, John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, Professor of Philosophy, Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium on Culture and Society at the University of Chicago