Habits of Hope: A Pragmatic Theory of the Life of Hope

Dissertation, Vanderbilt University (1997)

Patrick Shade
Rhodes College
The aim of this dissertation is to develop a theory of hope which accounts for the two senses in which hoping is, or should be, practical. The first sense concerns the need to make hopes realizable, while the second captures hope's ability to sustain us and foster growth. My argument is that a pragmatic theory of hope, previously undeveloped, provides a compelling explanation of hope's practicality. In particular, such a theory emphasizes three dimensions of the life of hope--particular hopes, habits of hope, and hopefulness--the interweaving of which accounts for hope's practicality. ;In the Introduction, I discuss the need for a practical theory of hope and then sketch key pragmatic ideas used throughout the dissertation. These include pragmatism's commitment to contextualism as well as the means-end continuum. In Chapters I and II, I discuss the first sense of hope's practicality, i.e., its realizability. I situate hope in the context of the human being as an interactive biological organism, highlighting the roles of intelligence and habits, as well as that of the self understood as the reconstructive dynamic of the organism. I then discuss particular hopes by focusing on their ends, understood as future goods which are arduous but nevertheless possible to realize. Chapter II focuses on habits of hope as the primary means to the realization of particular hopes. I consider three such habits, persistence, resourcefulness, and courage. ;Habits of hope also play an important role in the development of hopefulness. In Chapter III, I discuss the nature of hopefulness, contrasting it with despair and examining how it contributes to the second sense of hope's practicality. I argue that we can develop hopefulness as the regnant habit of the self, nurturing and sustaining us as we meet life's trials. The social nature of hopefulness is emphasized through examples drawn from Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Both works show how hopefulness develops through close interpersonal relationships. ;Chapter IV closes the discussion by highlighting the conditioned nature of hope, pragmatically conceived. I consider alternate theories which focus on unconditioned hopes, but argue that these theories undermine hope's practicality. They transform its conditioned transcendence into an unconditioned transcendence, thereby undermining hope's realizability
Keywords Hope   Pragmatism   Philosophy, American
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ISBN(s) 0826513611 (alk. paper)
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