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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Forthcoming Research Seminars and Lectures

Dr Joe Saunders
Research Seminar Coordinator

(For past seminars and lectures see here)

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21st February 2018: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture: Professor Lisa Bortolotti - Does optimism lead to success?

(3 November 2017)

As part of the North-East centre of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the Department hosts regular Institute lectures. 

This Lecture will be held in the Williams Library, St Chad's College, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 11:30am with the Lecture commencing at 12Noon.

Title: Does optimism lead to success?


Does optimism lead to success? Although optimistic beliefs are said to contribute to fitness, good functioning, productivity, resilience, and even altruistic and caring behaviour, it is controversial whether they are conducive to success, intended as the fulfilment of the agent’s goals in a given domain. Sceptics argue that people who are optimistic can be unprepared for setbacks, fail to react constructively to negative feedback, feel disappointed when their performance does not match their expectations, disengage from their goals, and put themselves at risk due to underestimating threats.

So, when are optimistic beliefs linked to success? Here I rule out two influential views, that optimistic beliefs are linked to success when they accurately represent reality or when they boost the agent’s mood. Based on the results of psychological studies about attitudes towards romantic relationships and health prospects, I suggest that the optimistic beliefs linked to successful performance are not necessarily realistic and do not always boost the agent’s mood, but are instrumental to agents persevering in the pursuit of their goals at critical times. Beliefs supporting the sense that people are competent and efficacious agents and that their goals are both desirable and attainable sustain motivation and, indirectly, goal fulfilment.



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