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Summa Theologica by Aquinas

Whether experience is a cause of hope?

Objection 1: It would seem that experience is not a cause of hope. Because experience belongs to the cognitive power; wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 1) that |intellectual virtue needs experience and time.| But hope is not in the cognitive power, but in the appetite, as stated above (A). Therefore experience is not a cause of hope.

Objection 2: Further, the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 13) that |the old are slow to hope, on account of their experience|; whence it seems to follow that experience causes want of hope. But the same cause is not productive of opposites. Therefore experience is not a cause of hope.

Objection 3: Further, the Philosopher says (De Coel. ii, 5) that |to have something to say about everything, without leaving anything out, is sometimes a proof of folly.| But to attempt everything seems to point to great hopes; while folly arises from inexperience. Therefore inexperience, rather than experience, seems to be a cause of hope.

On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 8) |some are hopeful, through having been victorious often and over many opponents|: which seems to pertain to experience. Therefore experience is a cause of hope.

I answer that, As stated above (A), the object of hope is a future good, difficult but possible to obtain. Consequently a thing may be a cause of hope, either because it makes something possible to a man: or because it makes him think something possible. In the first way hope is caused by everything that increases a man's power; e.g. riches, strength, and, among others, experience: since by experience man acquires the faculty of doing something easily, and the result of this is hope. Wherefore Vegetius says (De Re Milit. i): |No one fears to do that which he is sure of having learned well.|

In the second way, hope is caused by everything that makes man think that he can obtain something: and thus both teaching and persuasion may be a cause of hope. And then again experience is a cause of hope, in so far as it makes him reckon something possible, which before his experience he looked upon as impossible. However, in this way, experience can cause a lack of hope: because just as it makes a man think possible what he had previously thought impossible; so, conversely, experience makes a man consider as impossible that which hitherto he had thought possible. Accordingly experience causes hope in two ways, despair in one way: and for this reason we may say rather that it causes hope.

Reply to Objection 1: Experience in matters pertaining to action not only produces knowledge; it also causes a certain habit, by reason of custom, which renders the action easier. Moreover, the intellectual virtue itself adds to the power of acting with ease: because it shows something to be possible; and thus is a cause of hope.

Reply to Objection 2: The old are wanting in hope because of their experience, in so far as experience makes them think something impossible. Hence he adds (Rhet. ii, 13) that |many evils have befallen them.|

Reply to Objection 3: Folly and inexperience can be a cause of hope accidentally as it were, by removing the knowledge which would help one to judge truly a thing to be impossible. Wherefore inexperience is a cause of hope, for the same reason as experience causes lack of hope.

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