Ratio 26 (2):179-195 (2013)

Bekka Williams
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Nearly all contributors to the philosophical analysis of hope agree that if an agent hopes that p, she both desires that p and assigns to p a probability which is greater than zero, but less than one. According to the widely‐endorsed Standard Account, these two conditions are also sufficient for ‘hoping that’. Ariel Meirav has recently argued, however, that the Standard Account fails to distinguish hoping for a prospect from despairing of it – due to cases where two agents equally desire an outcome and assign to it the same probability, yet one hopes for the outcome while the other despairs of it. I argue, against Meirav, that these putative counterexamples depend crucially on the assumption – previously unquestioned – that the degree of probability necessary for hope is invariant across individuals. If the probability threshold is instead understood as agent‐relative, the difficulty disappears. Further, I argue that there is strong independent reason for taking the probability threshold of hope to be agent‐relative, based on similarities to the widely‐accepted agent‐relative probability thresholds of industriousness and risk aversion. And I conclude by noting how the agent‐relative modification to the Standard Account is better equipped than is Meirav's positive view to yield intuitive results.
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DOI 10.1111/rati.2013.26.issue-2
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