Analysing hope: The live possibility account

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The orthodox definition of hope suffers from an exclusion problem: it is unable to exclude subjects without hope. In fact, the orthodox definition even allows for despair to be falsely classified as hope. This problem suggests two basic desiderata for a successful analysis of hope: it should solve the exclusion problem, and it should have the resources to explain why, in a given situation, a subject does or does not form a hope. Bearing these desiderata in mind, I assess two recent hope-accounts offered by Jack M. C. Kwong and Cheshire Calhoun. I then offer my own view, which is based on the Jamesian notion of a “live possibility”. I suggest that a possibility needs to reach a certain probability threshold in order to count as live, and according to my account, to hope is to desire the truth of such a live possibility. This view is well-equipped to solve the exclusion problem, and it can explain why a subject does or does not hope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-698
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date2020 Aug 17
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy


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