Beatrice Han-Pile (Essex) ‘Hope and Agency’

The next research seminar is on Wednesday March 16th, where Beatrice Han-Pile will be speaking on ‘Hope and Agency’. Usual time and place of 4.15-5.45pm in Room 0.02, John Percival Building.

Abstract: What has become known as the ‘orthodox’ definition of hope (OD) defines the latter as follows: ‘A hopes that p if and only if (1) A desires (or wishes for) p and (2) A assigns to p a degree of probability between (and excluding) 0 and 1’. Recent critics have accepted the OD but deemed it insufficient to account for strong hope, and thus proposed further conditions. I identify the underlying problem, namely the ‘Low Probability Assignment Problem’ (LPAP), and draw out the implications of the OD for the agential structure of hope. I argue that two of the most influential accounts (Pettit’s and Martin’s) fail to provide a fix to the LPAP because they rely on an overly cognitivist and voluntarist conception of the agency involved in hope, a conception which is both untrue to hope as a phenomenon and incompatible with the agential implications of the OD they try to build upon. Finally, I clear the way for an alternative fix to the LPAP by exploring the minimum conditions on agency which would make an alternative solution both compatible with the OD and true to the phenomenon of hope. Building on previous work, I refer to this kind of agency as ‘medio-passive’ and outline some of the ways it is played out in hope.

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