Session 1: Theories of Hope
Chair: Phil Fitzsimmons
Moral Theory and Hope
Department of Philosophy, Lund University Kungshuset, Lundagård, Lund, Sweden
James Griffin argues that our human capacities, our ’human nature’, impose constraints on the possible content of moral norms. As he says, “A moral standard that ignores human capacities is not an ‘ideal’ standard; it is no standard at all”. He believes that utilitarianism is an example of a moral theory that disregards human capacities in this way (ignoring, for instance, cognitive and epistemic limitations that we all know we have as human beings). Yet he acknowledges that “This would be flatly denied by the sort of objectivist who would maintain that moral norms are independent of human capacities, that they are simply to be discovered by us, that we can hope that their demands will not outstrip our powers, but that this can only be a hope”.
There is no doubt that Griffin, and many with him, think that this hope is slim. In this paper I argue that ideal standards (now without the scare quotes), pace Griffin, indeed are real standards. Furthermore, I argue that such standards function regulatively, that they are a kind of focus imaginarius for moral discourse, in such a way that they actually make sense of, and rationalize, the hope that Griffin thinks is a telling argument against them.
Peirce on Hope
Noel E. Boulting
William James dedicated his collection of essays The Will to Believe to his old friend Charles Sanders Peirce. In that collection James included his essay “Is Life Worth Living?” In answer to this question he explores the possibility of “how soaked and shot through life is with values and meanings” as he puts is elsewhere. Given that assumption, James’s characterization of hope in visionary terms relates to the goal of attaining “breadth of insight into the impersonal world of worths as such” so as to have a “perception of life’s meaning on a large objective scale”.
By way of contrast, for Ernst Bloch – the philosopher of Hope – Hope is characterized not just in terms of some aesthetic vision but also in relation to action. Not only must there be “something above, but also something before us” namely “the creation of a classless society, the final goal, the face of a world opened up by us in which the subject is no longer burdened with an object alien to it”.
At first sight Peirce’s cognitive conception of hope hardly sees as promising. So he writes in 1868 in “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities”: “When I endeavour to realize to myself what I never can do, a pleasure in the future, I hope” (CP 5.292). True, like Bloch, Peirce identifies hope as an emotion, even as a desire (CP 5.486) but his characterization here fails to distinguish hope from what Bloch would regard as mere wishing. The latter is passive in its nature which, though it may “be related to longing”, lacks “any element of work or activity” on our part.
It will be necessary to meet this challenge before dealing with Peirce’s contribution on three fonts. First, there is the traditional way of conceiving his ideas in relation to values regulating the activity of inquiry. Secondly, it may prove fruitful to explore what he says about hope’s relation to Abduction or Retroduction, as he was later to refer to inquiry’s initial stage. Finally, it may be appropriate to examine these dimensions with respect to what he has to say about instincts and human sentiments.
The Rationality of Hope
Department of Philosophy, Coordinator, Leadership Studies, Saint Joseph College, West Hartford, CT, USA
As we know, Immanuel Kant followed Aristotle in the conviction that what distinguishes humanity from other animals is our capacity for rationality. Thus, Kant frames the fundamental concerns of philosophy as three central, rational questions:
- What can I know?
- What ought I do to?
- What may I hope for?
The critiques of judgment and of pure and practical reason treat these questions as parallel. However, only the first two are, properly considered, rational. In fact, the relationship between the questions is paradoxical, a point which Kant does not address. I will argue that what actually qualifies us as human are three primarily non-rational modes of being: faith, hope, and love. That is, our identities are formed by what we believe, whom we love, and what we hope for. Badiou maintains that “hope is the name of a subject which remains,” that which perdures beyond desubjectification, betrayal, and falsehood, in the “event” of a unique ongoing presence: not the ‘free,’ ‘rational’ myth of the Kantian/modern individual, but an interdependent, transcendent desire. It is my hope that this reframing may be of some use in the post-modern conversation concerning the possibility of ethical agency.