One of the most interesting workshops at the NYC Anarchist Book Fair this year was Matt Hern’s talk “Against Tolerance”. And one of the most useful ideas I took away was an off hand comment on hope vs. optimism, which he attributed to Cornel West, who attributes it to Havel.

You have to draw a distinction between hope and optimism. Vaclav Havel put it well when he said “optimism” is the belief that things are going to turn out as you would like, as opposed to “hope,” which is when you are thoroughly convinced something is moral and right and just and therefore you fight regardless of the consequences. In that sense, I’m full of hope but in no way optimistic.Cornel West

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.Václav Havel

I’m finding it useful.