Assuming that "hopelessness" is absence of hope, if hope was there in the first place then hope can be "taken away" or "destroyed" which could be done a "bringer of hopelessness".

Is "taking hope" same as "destroying hope"?

We had a discussion on the above and it seems that the distinction on the above seems to be boiling down to whether we consider "hope" to be unique as in having an identity. A positive answer(i.e. hope does have a unique identity) to the preceding question would enable us to draw parallel to "taking life" and "destroying life" where the 2 seem to be different.

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    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. The first part of the question seems to be about dictionary meanings, which English SE can handle better. As for the second part could you explain what "hope has a unique identity" means, or what it would mean for any abstract concept like life, love, justice, beauty, etc.? Does it mean that there should be some universal, objective and eternal idea of hope? – Conifold Feb 14 '17 at 17:23
  • @Coniflod: Thanks! We are approaching the first part philosophically with the argument being: "If I can take and give back hope and it would be different than destroying and recreating hope then two phrases are different". I was discussing this and it eventually boiled down to whether "creating hope" is same as "giving back hope". So, does every hope also have unique identity? As an example, assuming "creating life" and "giving back life" are different because of the "unique identity of a life". So on similar lines, are "destroyer of life" and "bringer of death" same? – kshitij8 Feb 14 '17 at 18:49
  • I think the more common understanding of such things is that "take and give back" (life, hope,...) are just metaphorical expressions, turns of phrase, that involve no actual giving or taking, they are (vague) verbal stand-ins for some actions/processes. In particular, I am unclear what "unique identity of a life" means to you either. is it that "life" gets instantiated in particular individual living creatures? In that case something like this is true of all universals, even if one believes in their "independent" existence like Plato. – Conifold Feb 14 '17 at 19:00
  • @Conifold: Let's try with a less theoretical example. You have a cellphone, I can "take it" from you and then "give it back" to you its same the same phone. But what if I "destroy it" and then "create a new one and give it you". In both cases you were rendered "without a cellphone" and eventually "with a cellphone" but the end situations are different because the new cellphone "isn't the same". Here the cellphone is a stand-in for metaphorical "hope", but would the "isn't same" rationale work if I replace "cellphone" with "hope"? (No cellphones were taken or destroyed in making this comment) – kshitij8 Feb 14 '17 at 19:10
  • I don't think this analogy works, the similarity between cellphone and hope is superficial and purely grammatical (they are both nouns), but hope is not any kind of object despite the surface grammar. "Giving and taking" hope actually refers to starting or ending some emotional states, not manipulating an object. When you look at it this way you'll see that "hope having an identity" just abuses the language and is a meaningless expression, and therefore the question is not really a question. – Conifold Feb 14 '17 at 22:35

With poetically similar language such as "destroyer of hope" and "bringer of hopelessness" or "taking hope" vs. "destroying hope", the semantics are typically not obvious. One needs to look at the surrounding context to determine what those phrases mean. However, there are general patterns which do occur in English speech that can be useful.

One key aspect is the concept of action. "Destroyer of hope" is an active phrasing which typically indicates an individual who seeks out hope and actively tries to destroy it. A "bringer of hopelessness" is more of a passive phrasing which typically indicates an individual who inspires hopelessness around them, but isn't necessarily actively trying to seek out hope to destroy. If anything, one might say that the cultivate hopelessness, and permit that hopelessness to counteract what hope it finds.

Again, this is not a 100% semantic rule, but it is a trend that I find tends to lead an author to choose one phrasing or the other. In the end, both may result in a loss of hope, but the way they cause that loss of hope is different and that is often conveyed by such phrasings. When facing a "destroyer of X," one might rationalize that it's a good idea to hide your X, so that the destroyer cannot find it. When facing a "bringer of not(X)," its usually encouraged to feed your X and make it shine brightly to overcome the miasma of not(X) that surrounds the bringer.

"Taking" vs. "destroying" on the other hand, has a more clearcut difference. Taking is an action that obeys conservation. If an individual takes X from you, you no longer have X and they now do have X. The concept of "taking back X" becomes meaningful to talk about. A destroyer does not try to conserve. If an individual destroys your X, you no longer have X and they also do not have X. There's no equivalent meaning of "destroying back X" which could be applied, although the idea of doing that starts to enter the realm of punitive measures as you find some equivalent of X that they have, perhaps X', so that you can say "you destroyed X, so I will destroy X' ".


We would have to agree on definitions. If we considered that "hope" is for something more or less definite (hope for something) or at least the idea that things could get better. Hence it is an idea for the future. Destroying hope, thus would be removing something that contemplates the future.

I would understand hopelessness as a general feeling that nothing can be done, accompanied by despondency (similar to desperation). This is an emotion that may or may not accompany the loss of hope (one could lose hope without becoming hopeless).

So destroying hope would remove a forward looking emotion, but would not necessarily impair the subject's capability to direct their hope elsewhere. Bringing hopelessness would create a state of mind were no further hope would be possible.

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