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Too often, hope is described in individualist terms and in ways that do not help us understand contemporary democracy or offer ways to improve it. Instead, I develop an account of hope situated within pragmatist philosophy that is rooted in the experiences of individuals and grows out of real life circumstances, yet cannot be disconnected from social and political life. This account can help us to better face current political struggles related to hopelessness and despair, all the while building democratic identity. To examine the ways in which shared hoping and the content of our hopes shape our identity and our work together in democracy, I consider both how and what we hope in political contexts.
   () -
©   , , | ./-
Hoping and Democracy
Sarah M. Stitzlein
Professor, University of Cincinnati School of Education and Aliate,
Philosophy Department
Too often, hope is described in individualist terms and in ways that do not help us
understand contemporary democracy or ofer ways to improve it. Instead, I develop an
account of hope situated within pragmatist philosophy that is rooted in the experienc-
es of individuals and grows out of real life circumstances, yet cannot be disconnected
from social and political life. This account can help us to better face current political
struggles related to hopelessness and despair, all the while building democratic iden-
tity. To examine the ways in which shared hoping and the content of our hopes shape
our identity and our work together in democracy, I consider both how and what we
hope in political contexts.
Hope – meliorism – John Dewey – habits – democracy
What ought I hope for? This question guides our pursuit of the good life and
its answer is often shaped by our social, political, and educational experiences.
We aren’t born with ready-made hopes; rather, we shape them through our in-
teractions with others, our growing sense of what is possible as we learn about
our environment, and our experiments with the world to see what we can do
within it and to change it. Other people play an important role in this process,
especially through institutions like schools, social arrangements like families,
and political practices like democracy. They shape the traditions and expecta-
tions we inherit, as well as the ways in which we test, challenge, and revise
what has been passed on to us.
* This work was supported by a grant from the Center for Ethics & Education.
  
   () -
Despite this, hope is too often described in individualist terms that fail to
encapsulate the full process of hoping and its potential impact on shared liv-
ing. Many theologians link hope with an individual’s faith in a deity who will
act on his or her behalf, some philosophers employ a narrow understanding
of hope as an individual’s desire for an outcome in the face of uncertainty,
while many more psychologists describe hope as an individual’s use of will-
power and “waypower” to achieve clear goals. Instead, I will ofer a pragmatist
account of hope, which is rmly rooted in the experiences of individuals and
grows out of real life circumstances, yet cannot be disconnected from social
and political life. I extend my account to show how a pragmatist view of hope
is necessarily connected to other people and can be used to enrich our experi-
ences in communities. Moreover, such hope can help us to better face current
political struggles and social problems, all the while building a democratic
identity together.
In this article, I will explain how pragmatism ofers an enhanced under-
standing of hope and its role in our lives together. To examine the ways in
which shared hoping and the shared content of our hopes shape our iden-
tity and our work together in democracy, I consider both how and what we
hope. Unlike other accounts of hope that are largely divorced from life’s cir-
cumstances, such as theological accounts that direct our attention to deities
and psychological accounts that tell us we must hope for our goals regardless
of real world constraints, pragmatist hope is noteworthy because it is rmly
rooted in reality. Moreover, a pragmatist account addresses some of the cur-
rent obstacles we face in American democracy and is capable of transforming
or improving them. Perhaps more importantly, such hope can be directly and
Joseph Godfrey traces this religious view in A Philosophy of Human Hope (Boston: Martinus
Nijhof Publishers, 1987), as does Allan Mittleman in Hope in a Democratic Age: Philosophy,
Religion, and Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Adrienne Martin describes this lasting tendency in her book, How we Hope: A Moral Psychol-
ogy (Princeton, : Princeton University Press, 2014).
This view is most pronounced in “positive psychology,” which traces its roots to C.R. Snyder.
I aim to go beyond the theory of Patrick Shade, who has already sketched an initial pragma-
tist vision of hope, though he sometimes constrains his portrayal of hope to the life of the
individual. Patrick A. Shade, “Habits of Hope: A Pragmatic Theory of the Life of Hope.”
In this regard, it is more akin to the spirit of social hope which other pragmatists, such as
Judith Green, have suggested but have not eshed out in detail regarding its cultivation or
its role in democracy. Judith M. Green, Pragmatism and Social Hope: Deepening Democracy in
Global Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).
Admittedly, I’m being a bit reductionist here, largely for the sake of creating a foil, not a straw
man. I have chronicled problems with such a psychological account (and its related call for
grit in education practices and testing) in Author, 2018.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
indirectly cultivated within citizens, thereby ofering a feasible way that demo-
cratic life can be strengthened.
1 Present Context
Before looking at hope in detail, let’s briey rst take stock of current condi-
tions that relate to hopelessness in personal and political life. In pragmatist
spirit, the account I ofer here must attend to real conditions. Unfortunate-
ly, these are conditions where hope is struggling, where democracy may be
in jeopardy, and where the dominant form of hope that we do see is largely
To begin, a recent study using the World Values Survey and other polling
sources nds that democratic citizens have “become more cynical about the
value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do
might inuence public policy, and more willing to express support for authori-
tarian alternatives.” Those citizens have increasingly withdrawn from demo-
cratic participation, whether that be through formal institutions or alternatives
in the public or civic spheres, such as joining in movements or protests. There
has been a dramatic shift in how the wealthy view democracy, with 16 percent
of them now believing that military rule is a better way of living and an as-
tounding 35 percent of rich young Americans holding such a view.
There are likely many factors impacting this current state of afairs and I
will touch on a few here. First, in terms of hope most overtly, Alan Mittleman
rightly notes that “the legitimacy of politics is damaged in proportion to its
failure to full the hopes it has engendered.” Indeed, several recent Ameri-
can candidates ran on messages of hope and yet the visions evoked have often
failed to be fullled in reality, crushing the heightened expectations of citizens.
Politicians often use the rhetoric of hope, but they tend to distort what hope
really is and what it requires of citizens, as I will explain later. Instead, they
make reference to the supposed destiny of the nation with God as its backer.
Or, as in the cases of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, some citizens place
Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, “The Democratic Disconnect,Journal of Democ-
racy, 27 (2016), 5–17, p. 7.
Ibid., p. 10.
I recognize that the situation is more complex than just as summarized in this one report,
but I am using it here to provide a brief account of the current context.
 Alan Mittleman, Hope in a Democratic Age: Philosophy, Religion, and Political Theory
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 21.
  
   () -
their hope in the leader himself, invoking a messianic gure. These forms of
hope entail no more citizen action than, perhaps, donating to a campaign or
wearing an iconic t-shirt proclaiming “hope.” Instead, I will argue that, rather
than passively relying on the hope promised by politicians, citizens must par-
ticipate in shaping and fullling hope, making such hope more genuine and
Second, structural violence and inequality, common amongst poor and ra-
cial minority communities in America, has wreaked havoc on hope. In some
cases, it has eroded hope. In others it has rendered hope exhausting, with
marginalized citizens told that they must never give up hope and that they
must keep trying to earn a better life for themselves, in part through improv-
ing their own character regardless of the stagnant harmful practices of others.
Many of those citizens are left either nihilistically without hope or perpetu-
ally chasing a vision of justice that is (perhaps sometimes intentionally kept)
out of reach. I intend to describe a form of hope that is more sustainable
and more attuned to the real conditions of life that we can control and others
where we have limited control.
Third, citizenship in America has increasingly become centered on individ-
uals, personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, and private success. Historical
accounts of rugged individualism have now joined forces with calls to educate
children in grit and expectations that one will ght to earn one’s position and
goods in a competitive marketplace. This environment lacks trust in others
and discourages collaborative efort. Often those who have not been successful
in the past, or do not see viable avenues for being so in the future, fatalistically
accept these conditions and become passive about countering or changing
 Sean Ginwright, Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Urban Activists and Teachers
are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart (New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 4 and 16.
 Calvin Warren, “Black Nihilism and the Politics of Hope,” : The New Centennial Review,
15 (2015), pp. 215–248. Shannon Sullivan, “Setting aside hope: A pragmatist approach to
racial justice,” in Pragmatism and Justice, ed. by Susan Dielman, David Rondel, and Chris-
topher Voparil (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
 Calvin Warren, “Black Nihilism and the Politics of Hope,” : The New Centennial Review,
15 (2015): 215–248.
 Recent federal law (Every Student Succeeds Act) now requires all schools to assess at
least one nonacademic measurement. Grit, believed to be measurable, appeals to some
schools and states as a worthy choice. “S. 1177—114th Congress: Every Student Succeeds
Act.” 2015. July 26, 2017 <
s1177>. Sarah D. Sparks, “‘Nation’s Report Card’ to Gather Data on Grit, Mindset,” Edu-
cation Week, June 2, 2015, available at <
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
them. While others who have enough resources and power to be comfortable
with the present conditions, indulge in the privilege of being cynical or apa-
thetic. Some spread these states of hopelessness or jaded negativity through
memes and messages on social media, especially about the role and efective-
ness of government, rendering cynicism a collective practice. Cynics, left be-
lieving that their political eforts are useless or inefective and perhaps that
everyone acts on self-interest, are left to look out merely for themselves, with-
out a sense of responsibility to act on behalf of themselves and others. Indeed,
cynics may mock others who do not hold such views as naïve and out of touch
with reality. Cynicism functions as a distancing maneuver, separating citizens
from each other, from formal democratic institutions, and from civic organiza-
tions, where visions of an improved world and action to achieve it tend to oc-
cur. My notion of hope aims to span those divides.
Finally, what is left of hope has become privatized. This is exacerbated
as neoliberalism continues to assert Margaret Thatcher’s claims, “There is no
such thing as society, only individuals and families,” and “there is no alternative
to the market.” Hope is reduced to a mere drive to achieve one’s own limited
dreams, or those of one’s children, typically only through nancial terms and
material goods. When citizens are rendered isolated competitors, they lose the
ability to detect social problems and the motivation to ameliorate them, espe-
cially if the efects on one’s self or family are not immediate. Economist Tyler
Cowen describes these citizens as the new “complacent class,” who are content
with the way things are as long as they are not directly harmed and as long as
they can stay surrounded by people and things that conrm their experience
of the world. In their complacency, the members of the complacent class are
unable to “inspire an electorate with any kind of strong positive visions, other
than some marginal adjustments.” I aim to show how hope is better under-
stand as a social and political endeavor that brings us into contact with others
as we craft visions of the future.
In sum, these changes in citizens’ lives and views debilitate individual citi-
zens and democracy as a whole. They keep us from recognizing and solving
collective problems and from leading better lives together. Citizens sit around
waiting for reasons to hope, sometimes becoming swept up in campaign rheto-
ric when election cycles come around, rather than acknowledging that hope
is generated through action as subjects working together, as I will argue. I will
 Ronald Aronson, We: Reviving Social Hope (Chicago, : The University of Chicago Press,
2017), 113.
 Ibid.
 Tyler Cowen, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream
(New York: St Martin’s Press, 2017), p. 194.
  
   () -
turn now to depict a pragmatist account of hope that can be formally cultivat-
ed in schools and informally in our lives together—a way of hoping together
that may better support democratic life in these challenging times.
2 Pragmatist Hope
I ofer here a pragmatist account of hope, largely based in the philosophy of
John Dewey. Notably, Dewey himself does not provide such an account, even
though hope underlies much of his work and was evident in his own personal
life as he encountered considerable despair at the loss of two of his children
and his wife, while also facing two world wars. I construct a view of hope from
Dewey’s well-articulated elements of inquiry, growth, truth, meliorism, and
habits. Pragmatism begins with the real and complicated conditions of our
world. It brings together intelligent reection with inquiry, habits, and action
so that we can understand and change our environments to better align with
our needs and desires. Hope plays an important role in that process.
Inquiry, Growth, and Truth
For Dewey, hope often arises within the midst of despair, when we have lost
our way and are struggling to move forward. Dewey describes these moments
as “indeterminate situations.” He turns to the process of inquiry via the em-
pirical method to help us explore those situations, consider possible courses of
action, and test out various solutions. It is inquiry that helps us to understand,
act upon, and reconstruct our environments and our experiences so that we
are able to move forward out of the indeterminate situation. In a richly cogni-
tive and often social practice, inquiry invokes curiosity and problem solving to
move us out of ruts. Indeed, this method combats the stagnation of fatalism by
urging us to formulate and try out solutions.
Growth describes how reconstructions of our experiences through inquiry
develops physical, intellectual, and moral capacities, actualizing them and
helping them inform one another so that they continue in a chain that enables
one to live satisfactorily. We grow when we learn from inquiry into indetermi-
nate situations and create ways to re-establish smooth living that carries us
from one activity to the next. Many people wrongly assume that growth neces-
sarily has an end—as if it were “movement toward a xed goal.” We tend to
think of growth as only progression toward some specic outcome, such as
 John Dewey, “Democracy and Education,” The Collected Works of John Dewey, 1882–1953:
The Middle Works, 1899–1924, vol. 9, ed. J.A. Boydston (Carbondale and Edwardsville, :
Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), p. 55.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
mastering bicycle riding or graduating from high school. But this way of think-
ing tends to place the emphasis on the static terminus, rather than focusing on
the process of growing as itself educative and worthwhile.
Dewey’s alternative view of growth does not neatly and linearly move to-
ward a xed goal. Instead, he describes trajectories that are more complicated,
often shifting with the environment. Moreover, holding onto a xed goal may
be undesirable because doing so employs a limited or possibly foreclosed vi-
sion of the future. Instead, as changes occur in one’s environment, Dewey as-
serts that people must continually inquire into moments of uncertainty and
changing circumstances, develop new hypotheses about those situations, and
revise their aims.
Dewey works with what he calls “ends-in-view,” which are relatively close
and feasible, even if dicult to achieve, rather than overarching goals at some
nal endpoint in the future. Those ends-in-view guide our decisions and hy-
potheses along the way, keeping us resourceful in the present. In Dewey’s
the discovery of how things do occur makes it possible to conceive of
their happening at will, and gives us a start on selecting and combining
the conditions, the means, to command their happening…there must
be a realistic study of actual conditions and the mode or law of natural
event, in order to give the imagined or ideal object denite form and solid
substance—to give it, in short, practicality and constitute it as a working
For Dewey, ends and means are intelligently considered in light of each other,
with both being revisable, and neither abstracted from the other. Each fullled
end-in-view sustains our hope by highlighting meaningful headway and direct-
ing our further action. Ends-in-view later become means to future ends, work-
ing in an ongoing continuum. This sustenance of hope difers from theological
accounts which are dicult to sustain on faith alone and may leave believers
frustrated at an apparent lack of action or improvement. It also difers from
positive psychology and grit literature which tends to focus on large, far-of,
and challenging goals that one holds tenaciously.
Many people think of hope as goal-directed and future-oriented. While
objects of hope for pragmatists may temporarily serve as ends-in-view, the
 John Dewey, “The Nature of Aims,” John Dewey: The Middle Works, 1899–1924, Volume 14:
1922, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, : Southern Illinois University Press, 1983),
pp. 154–163, at p. 162.
  
   () -
practice of hope moves us forward through inquiry and experimentation as
we pursue our complicated trajectory. It helps to unify our past, present, and
future. Hope, then, is not just about a vision of the future, but rather a way of
living in the present that is informed by the past and what is anticipated to
come. Whereas utopian views of what could be may actually immobilize one
and may exhaust one in the present, pragmatist hope is always tied to what
one is doing and feasibly can do in the present, especially when equipped with
knowledge of the past.
Central to pragmatist philosophy, ideas become true insofar as they “work”
for us, fruitfully combine our experiences, and lead us to further experiences
that satisfy our needs. Pragmatists are concerned with the concrete diferences
in our lived experiences that an idea’s being true will make. Pragmatic truth
expresses “the successful completing of a worthwhile leading.” Unlike truth as
a corresponding match between proposition and reality, pragmatist truth is
something that occurs when the goals of human ourishing are satised, at
least temporarily. Built into these criteria is consideration of the well-being of
others, for successful leading through experiences almost always necessarily
requires working and communicating with others. Additionally, the diferenc-
es an idea will make are quite limited, and therefore less truthful, if relevant
only to one person. While not a comprehensive vision of the good life, cer-
tain norms including equality and just communication are entailed both in
these deliberations and the determination of truth. We must consider how
to ourish alongside others as we craft our ends-in-view. This difers consider-
ably from other philosophical and psychological accounts of hope based on
the desire of objects or states of afairs regardless of whether they are good for
us or other people.
Pragmatists like Dewey recognize the diculty of present circumstances, yet
approach them practically, rather than idealistically, with thoughtful action,
believing that circumstances can be improved. Unlike simple optimists,
however, they do not hold that the situation will necessarily work out for the
 Charlene Haddock Seigfried, William James’s Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), p. 294.
 I’m drawing closely here on an account of pragmatist truth and ourishing that I detailed
in Author book, 2008.
 John Dewey, “Contributions to ‘A Cyclopedia of Education,’ Volumes 3, 4, and 5,” John Dew-
ey: The Middle Works, 1899–1924, Volume 7: 1912–1914, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale,
: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979), p. 294.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
best, but rather they believe people should make eforts to contribute to better
outcomes. Such eforts are rarely undertaken alone, instead they are tied to
others who are working together to solve problems. In the words of contempo-
rary pragmatist Cornel West, “Optimism adopts the role of the spectator who
surveys the evidence in order to infer that things are going to get better. Yet
when we know that the evidence does not look good…Hope enacts the stance
of the participant who actively struggles against the evidence.” Meliorism en-
tails action in the face of diculties. Dewey sees hope as a way of living aligned
with meliorism, “the idea that at least there is a sucient basis of goodness in
life and its conditions so that by thought and earnest efort we may constantly
make better things.”
Meliorism is not a belief in inevitable progress, but rather a call to human
action, especially in the midst of struggle and uncertainty. Dewey rmly ar-
gued that it would be foolish to believe that there is “an automatic and whole-
sale progress in human afairs,” insisting instead that betterment “depends
upon deliberative human foresight and socially constructive work.” Martin
Luther King, a champion and practitioner of hope, was enshrined on the oor
of Obama’s oval oce with his phrase: “The arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends toward justice.” Importantly, given how many hopes fell at under
the messianic gure of Obama, King later explained in a pragmatist spirit of
meliorism, “Human progress never rolls on wheels of inevitability; it comes
through the tireless eforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and with-
out this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagna-
tion. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always
ripe to do right.” We cannot wait until we have a clear picture of our nal
future goals; rather, we must act now in intelligent ways and through inquiry
to bring about better conditions and, thereby, truth. And we must be exible
to change and redirect our eforts as they unfold. Meliorism is an alternative to
both pessimism and optimism. It cultivates hope, growth, and better worlds.
For some pragmatists, like Colin Koopman, this meliorism-based hope is “the
 Cornel West, “Prisoners of Hope,” in The Impossible Will Take a Little While, ed. by Paul
Rogat Loeb (Cambridge, : Basic Books, 2004), p. 296.
 John Dewey, “Contributions to ‘A Cyclopedia of Education,’” p. 294.
 Aronson, Revising Social Hope, p. 92.
 Ibid., p. 77.
 I’m reminded here of Colin Koopman’s related point: “This is what it means to take a me-
lioristic perspective on truth. Meliorism focuses on improvements that are due to our en-
ergies and eforts. Truth, understood melioristically, is an improvement resulting from our
work.” Colin Koopman, Pragmatism as Transition: Hisotiricity and Hope in James, Dewey,
and Rorty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 22.
  
   () -
pragmatist afect par excellence: ‘hope is the mood of meliorism’ (27), ‘the char-
acteristic attitude of pragmatism is hope’ (17).”
One may not be drawn to a meliorist outlook, though—especially if one’s
life has been plagued by hardship. But such an outlook can be supported with
evidence and ultimately fostered. Teachers, religious leaders, and fellow citi-
zens can chart the historical impact of human efort that has demonstrably im-
proved the world. They can reveal goodness and just action even in the midst
of or following many atrocities of justice. Meliorism is not Pollyannaish, how-
ever, for it acknowledges the lasting blows of many moments of despair and
the diculty through which improvement has been won.
Our hope must be cautious and contingent, open to criticism and valida-
tion. Because of this, meliorism ts well with democracy as a way of life
where our hopes can be nurtured together and where inquiry tests and revises
what we believe to be true or desirable. Additionally, meliorism is aligned with
a belief in the agency of people, trusting that they can have signicant impact
on the world and may improve it. Their agency plays out not only in the ac-
tion they undertake to achieve an ends-in-view, but also in their shaping and
revising of the ends-in-view they hold. Such agency comes about through the
practice of habits.
Habits begin with impulses that naturally urge us to act. As we engage with
the world around us, including being shaped by cultural norms, our impulses
collect and mold into habits. People tend to develop similar habits because
of similar transactions with the environment. Some of those habits become
customs, or typical ways of acting. While we learn these indirectly or through
the teachings of our parents, their cultivation is most overt in schools, where
we learn about acceptable behaviors while imitating the behavior we see from
our teachers and others.
While most people think of habits as dull routines that we repeat exactly,
Dewey views habits as predispositions to act. They make up our ways of being
and our dispositions, and we enact them with ease and familiarity because
they have proven to help us lead our lives smoothly. Dewey adds, “Any habit
marks an inclination—an active preference and choice for the conditions in-
volved in its exercise. A habit does not wait, Micawber-like, for a stimulus to
 Stephane Madelrieux, “Pragmatism: The Task Before Us (A review of Koopman’s Pragma-
tism as Transition),Contemporary Pragmatism 14 (2017): 203–211.
 I’m following Judith Green here, Pragmatism and Social Hope, pp. 78–79.
 Thank you to Lori Foote for pointing out the multiple aspects of agency at work here.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
turn up so that it may get busy; it actively seeks for occasions to pass into full
operation.” Habits, then, seek to be put into intelligent action; they are not
mere defaults we thoughtlessly rely upon.
Because habits are urges to act, they give rise to desires. Importantly, hab-
its also ofer a way to pursue those desires, often through thought or bodily
movement. For Dewey, habits “do all the perceiving, recognizing, imagining,
recalling, judging, conceiving and reasoning that is done.” They organize our
perceptions based on past experiences so that we can form ideas about the
world that we test out in order to overcome indeterminate situations. As we
encounter new stimuli, habits help us to lter and make sense of those en-
counters, enabling us to develop ideas about them. Habits then provide the
know-how to act in the world because they entail our working capacities.
Finally, we reect on our experiences and our inquiries to determine which
habits bring about our growth by promoting smooth and just transactions with
the world and with other people.
So, while habits compose us individually, they are intimately linked to other
people also. The growth of individuals is often linked to the growth of the com-
munity. We employ inquiry not just to reconstruct our world, but also to recon-
sider and reshape our habits when problematic conditions or novel situations
arise. It is the intellectual aspect of habits that gives them meaning and keeps
people elastic and growing. Habits give us both strength and exibility. When
we are deep in despair, our selves may come apart. Unsure how to proceed, our
habits may ounder. We may succumb to bad habits that lack such exibility,
such as cynicism or apathy, that keep our lives stagnant and fail to keep up
with the changing world. But rather than reconciling ourselves to such a state,
Dewey’s philosophy ofers us ways of life that can help to reorient us.
Habits of Hope
I contend that hope, as a set of habits and their enactment, is most essentially
a disposition toward possibility and change for the betterment of oneself and
others. It is a way of being that overcomes the paralysis of pessimism by bring-
ing together proclivities and intelligent reection to motivate one to act and it
provides a structure to sustain us as we do so. Hope is a way of projecting our-
selves toward a better future, positioning us toward action. In Dewey’s words,
 Dewey, Democracy and Education, p. 53.
 John Dewey, “Human Nature and Conduct,John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899–1924,
Volume 14: 1922, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, : Southern Illinois University
Press, 1983), p. 124.
  
   () -
pragmatist habits of hope are “active attitudes of welcome.” They are ways
we greet the world and project ourselves in it.
Even when carried out in seemingly independent ways, the processes of in-
quiry, truth, growth, and development of habits unite us with the afairs and
well-being of others. Hope theorist Alan Mittleman argues that hope is not
just about change, however. He rightly argues that hope can also be about
maintaining conditions that help us to ourish. I would add that even in such
conservative circumstances aimed at preservation, hope is about change away
from how things are currently going or the direction in which they are trend-
ing, where those conditions may be in jeopardy.
Unlike habits as mere repeated action, pragmatist habits of hope are atti-
tudes and dispositions that shape how we transact with the world. They often
lead us to seek out or create possibilities when we face challenges. Difering
from individualist accounts of hope in terms of desire for a self-serving goal
or faith in other savior gures, habits of hope entail action that moves us to-
ward better ways of living. Hope helps us envision a desired future that arises
practically out of our conditions and with knowledge of the past. Yet, we move
beyond those conditions through assessing possibilities, determining whether
outcomes are desirable, and imagining how we might rearrange our circum-
stances to achieve new and better conditions. Imagination, for Dewey, heads
of failures which can derail hope because “thought runs ahead and foresees
The practical, intelligent, and generative nature of pragmatist hope leads
contemporary pragmatist Patrick Shade to rightly conclude that it entails
what he calls “conditioned transcendence,” where hope has two modes: “being
grounded in real conditions and being productive of new and better ones.
Pragmatist hope focuses on the agency of people in realistic settings, rather
than resorting to supernatural forces or optimistic pipe dreams. But it also rec-
ognizes that hope must be realistic and generative, otherwise, as in the case
of the poor and racial minority citizens urged to keep on hoping in spite of
 John Dewey, “The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy,” John Dewey, The Middle Works,
1899–1924, Volume 10: 1916–1917, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, : Southern Illinois
University Press, 1983), p. 50.
 Joseph Godfrey similarly and rightfully points out that hope implies evaluation about
possibility and the soundness of our desires. Joseph Godfrey, A Philosophy of Human
Hope, p. 169.
 John Dewey, “The Nature of Deliberation,” John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899–1924,
Volume 14: 1922, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, : Southern Illinois University
Press, 1983), p. 132.
 Shade, “Habits of Hope,” pp. 6–7.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
a long history of seeming insurmountable injustices, “If hoping exhausts our
resources, it is better not to hope.”
Pragmatist hope also emphasizes intelligence, where “Intelligence is critical
method applied to goods of belief, appreciation and conduct, so as to construct
freer and more secure goods….[I]t is the reasonable object of our deepest faith
and loyalty, the stay and support of all reasonable hopes.” Michael Eldridge
adds an important point:
Intelligence as criticism is the transformation of what is in terms of what
might be preferable. Democracy in the wide sense is the public transfor-
mation of experience, the constructing of ‘freer and more secure goods’
by mean of the ‘free communication of shareable meanings.’ This delib-
erative, communicative, constructive process, when considered from a
social psychological (or less well-dened) perspective is intelligence, but
when considered from a political perspective is democracy.
Here we see the weaving together of a Deweyan account of inquiry and growth
with the social and political practices of shared living.
Many citizens today tend to proclaim whether they do or do not “have hope,
as though hope is an object that is possessed, often passively, as if we merely
hold it or lose it. Pragmatist habits of hope, however, are better understood as
a verb—hoping, an ongoing activity. As we hope, we use our imagination to
construct creative solutions and envision using our agency to impact the world
and change our circumstances. “Hope, which is based on the knowledge of the
present conditions, gives people courage, a courage to act upon the founda-
tion of the hoped future…The hoping person acts for the change of the pres-
ent and thus founds by himself, within the boundaries of the possible, its own
future.” Imagination, courage, and agency work hand-in-hand.
Such capacity for and emphasis on agency and action renders us respon-
sible for pursuing a better future; it suggests that we should not stand idly by, as
we see many citizens doing today, nor are we merely responsible for securing
 Ibid.
 John Dewey, “Experience and Nature,John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1983: Volume 1:
1925, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, : Southern Illinois University Press, 1983),
p. 325.
 Michael Eldridge, Transforming Experience: John Dewey’s Cultural Instrumentalism (Nash-
ville, : Vanderbilt University Press, 1998), p. 198.
 Meyer, Iris, “Hope as the Conscious Action Towards an Open Future,” Hope Against Hope:
Philosophies, Cultures and Politics of Possibility and Doubt, ed. by Janet Horrigan and Ed
Wiltse. (Amsterdam: Rodophi, 2010), pp. 97–111, 98.
  
   () -
our own nancial needs. We should not be left to our own devices, however,
to sort out our responsibility or bear weighty culpability when we fall short or
nd ourselves exhausted by our best eforts. Rather, habits of hope, like other
habits, as well as the process of inquiry and problem-solving, can be intention-
ally cultivated. This suggests heightened need and opportunity for schools to
nurture hope in students and to help them enact it well. Additionally, schools
can help burgeoning citizens to assess which habits are fruitful, so those citi-
zens learn tools to continually keep themselves aligned with and engaged in
hoping. Finally, being around people who demonstrate and act on hope can
foster hope and courage in others and motivate them to take hopeful action
themselves. Relatedly, “Our sense of possibility may depend on our seeing that
others are acting on behalf of similar goals.” Schools, located in communities
that may share similar goals, are ripe spaces for the cultivating and spreading
3 Hope as Social and Political, Rather than Individualistic
As I’ve begun to indicate in the sections above, a pragmatist account of hope,
which grows out of inquiry, truth, meliorism, and habits, bridges the individual
with the social and political. In this section, I’ll say a bit more about how that
works and why it is a useful understanding and practice of hope to apply in
today’s context. To set the stage, Dewey says in Creative Democracy, “democ-
racy is a personal way of individual life…Instead of thinking of our own dispo-
sitions and habits as accommodated to certain institutions, we have to learn
to think of the latter as expressions, projections and extensions of habitually
dominant personal attitudes.” How radical it might be to rethink of democ-
racy as a projection of our own hoping.
To begin, hope is more than just an aspect of our inner lives, our pursuit
of self-serving goals, or our faith in a deity to help us. Rather, hope emerges
amidst specic contexts, thereby raising implications for shared social living.
While habits of hope are housed within and compose individuals, hope is not
individualist. Habits grow out of our individual impulses, but are shaped by
our community, where shared habits play out as customs and values. Habits of
hope employ the resources of our community and our relationship with others
in it to provide means for us to pursue our desires, many of which themselves
have been inuenced by those around us. Pragmatist hope extends into the
 Aronson, Revising Social Hope, pp. 47–48.
 Dewey, “Creative Democracy,” p. 226.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
social world and plays out fruitfully there because it is guided by growth, me-
liorism, and norms, each of which take into account the well-being of others
and our impact upon them. It pushes us from individual pursuit of our goals
to reective, collective public work to make the physical, social, and political
world a better place.
For Dewey, problem solving is seldom done alone, rather we must reach
out to others to collect their interpretations of the current state of afairs and
suggestions for change. Anthropologist Lia Haro, who studied and quotes the
Zapatistas, an entire culture based on hope, concluded:
Hope is tended and increased in dialogue and receptive listening: ‘Our
hope grows and we become better because we know how to listen.’ The
political dimension of insurgent hope, of creating a diferent future, re-
quires the work of listening and speaking with others to nd ‘pockets of
light’ and possibility that would be invisible without the advantage of
multiple, distinct perspectives.
She rightfully draws attention to the fact that hoping requires listening in or-
der to discover and pursue new possibilities, especially when they have the
potential to impact the lives of others. In Dewey’s words, we need “an attitude
of mind which actively welcomes suggestions and relevant information from
all sides.” Hoping engages in this sort of open-minded listening and collabo-
ration; it brings people together rather than distances them, as cynicism does.
While listening often is conned to only to our most immediate relationships
or communities, the increasing interconnectedness of our decisions and impli-
cations on others, should urge us to listen to and include others— something
pragmatist Judith Green dubs “a global network of social hope.”
Hoping moves us beyond ourselves, connecting us to not only other people
(sometimes other hopers), but also to “what was” and the “not yet.” Through
such connections we nd resources to pursue our ends-in-view and develop a
sense of accomplishment—an assurance that alongside others, we can envi-
sion and craft a better world without relying merely on the vision of politicians
or throwing up our arms in isolated resignation. Akiba Lerner powerfully urges
 Haro, Lia. “The Afective Politics of Insurgent Hope,” in Hope Against Hope, ed. by Janet
Horrigan and Ed Wiltse (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010), p. 200.
 Dewey, “Democracy and Education,” p. 182.
 Green, Pragmatism and Social Hope, p. 129.
 I borrow phrases used by Andre Willis at the Templeton Foundation Conference on Hope
and Optimism, Estes Park, Colorado, June 2016.
  
   () -
that we must “embrace the radical contingency that our personal hopes are
connected to our ability to mutually recognize, create dialogue with, and help
actualize the hopes of our fellow citizens.” Such contingency and mutual de-
pendence, alongside agency and action, serve as important counters to trends
we see amongst citizens today.
Pragmatist hope, then, relies on trust—trust in each other and trust in the
ability of people to positively impact the world. As trust struggles within a con-
text of neoliberal competition that champions the individual, pragmatist hope
demonstrates at best a spirit of togetherness and a “we” of political life, and at
minimum an acknowledgment of our necessary relationships with others and
that often achieving our own well-being is dependent upon fruitful interac-
tions with others. Conceding the limitations of our own agency, we are ushered
into trusting others. They may pick up where we leave of or they may empow-
er and expand our own agency. But we must also be leery of naïve trust that
may jeopardize our well-being or that of others. This is done, in part, through
careful consideration of those who have acting harmfully or maliciously in the
past and guarded willingness to work with them again.
Development and assessment of trust may be the work of teachers, who
would then arm for growing citizens the worthwhileness of trust, at the
same time scafolding the hoping of students and their sense of self as capable
agents. Indeed, work on Alfred Bandura’s notion of self-ecacy shows that
those who are supported in believing that they are able to achieve a desired
outcome, are more likely to persist in pursuing it. Teachers who can demon-
strate the impact of a student’s efort to those students and others are more
likely to produce future citizens who recognize their own agency and engage in
civic action, rather than resigning from democratic life when seeing little op-
portunity to inuence it, as indicated in the survey at the outset of this paper.
But hopers themselves should also engage in this supportive activity togeth-
er. Victoria McGeer explains,
Hoping well thus involves cultivating a meta-disposition in which some
of one’s hopeful energy becomes directed toward supporting the hopeful
agency of others and, hence, toward creating the kind of environment in
 Akiba Lerner, Redemptive Hope: From the Age of Enlightenment to the Age of Obama (New
York: Fordham University Press, 2015), pp. 90–91.
 For more along these lines of trust, see Victoria McGeer, “Trust, Hope, and Empower-
ment,” Australian Journal of Philosophy, 86 (2008), pp. 237–254.
 Brett Johnson, “Overcoming ‘Gloom and Doom’: Empowering Students on Courses in
Social Justice, Injustice, and Inequality,Teaching Sociology, 33, (2005), pp. 44–58, 46.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
which one’s own hopeful energy is supplemented by the hopeful energy
renewed in them. In this way, hoping well draws less on the egocentric
preoccupations of desire and of dread and more on the alterocentric con-
cerns of care.
As a result, “when we hope in each other, reciprocally, we make a commitment
to each other in addition to that made to our shared objective of hope.” It is
the forming of this “we,” this mutual care through hoping together—which
goes beyond shared aims—that can help rearm the value of democracy,
shared political life, and freedom, all in the face of rising support for autocratic
rulers today.
Democracy is a relationship where we test out hoping together, con-
tinually revising and reconstructing our environments to meet our mutual
ends-in-view and to sustain human ourishing. We hope with others, rather
than merely by ourselves. The democratic community becomes a concrete
location and source for both forming the objects of our hope and engaging
in hoping. Unlike “positive psychology,” which uses a Snyder scale to measure
hope without considering its impact on others, and unlike individualist ac-
counts that are self-serving, pragmatist hope is social and political, guided by
the need to work with and ourish alongside other citizens.
Whereas contemporary American democracy is plagued by apathy about
social problems, distrust of the motives of others, and civic disengagement,
pragmatist hope pushes us into the fray of those problems, goading trust in
others and action alongside others. Pragmatist hope shifts one’s identity from
self-serving individual to belonging to a collective “we.” Such an identity en-
ables citizens to better detect social problems and recognize their mutual
stake in them, rather than passively or cynically sitting by.
Perhaps counterintuitively, “Hope often creates discontent, inasmuch as a
person’s hopes for the future may make them very dissatised with things as
they are presently.” That discontent can be used proactively as democratic
dissent. In such dissent one not only expresses one’s dissatisfaction with the
current state, but helps others to see the problem, and then puts forward
 Victoria McGeer, “The Art of Good Hope,” The Annals of the American Academy (March
2004), pp. 100–137, 123.
 Jayne M. Waterworth, A Philosophical Analysis of Hope (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
2004), pp. 84–5.
 Brett Johnson, “Overcoming ‘Gloom and Doom.’”
 David Halpin, Hope and Education: The Role of the Utopian Imagination (New York:
Routledge Falmer, 2003), p. 15.
  
   () -
solutions to be discussed and tested. This discontent becomes an important
part of cultural criticism, critique, and inquiry geared toward improving so-
cial living. Unlike cynicism that fails to put forward solutions to the source
of frustration, such dissent mobilizes action and engages democracy to imag-
ine and work toward a better future with knowledge of the past and the pre-
vious visions that have been fullled. In similar spirit, Michael Walzer adds,
“[Criticism] is founded in hope; it cannot be carried on without some sense
of historical possibility.” It is sometimes those who are most frustrated with
the world as it is that, through their scathing depictions of that world, provoke
hoping in themselves and others that ignites alternatives. Relatedly, hoping
can be knowing when to resist change and when to reassert past ways of being
that are being left behind back into the vision of the future.
The shared work of democracy that rises from pragmatist hope is more
fruitful and just than mere independent wishes, optimism, or grit. Insofar as
it can be cultivated as a set of habits, we have the ability to nurture pragmatist
hope to stave of the debilitating impact of apathy, cynicism, pessimism, and
loss of faith in democratic living increasingly prevalent today.
4 Hope and Democracy
When hope is understood as pragmatist habits, it is enacted as hoping together
in a democracy with others and plays out through shared ends of hoping to-
gether. Though a pragmatist is always leery of narrowly dening the shared
content of hoping in advance (for it would not arise out of real conditions and
the changing needs of citizens), I will briey expand here on what the shared
content of hoping might be in light of pragmatist views of inquiry, growth,
shared social living, and meliorism, as well as how shared hoping might work.
William James was clear that pragmatism “does not stand for any special
results. It is a method only.” As such, the emphasis should remain on the
action, methods of inquiry, and proclivities of hoping. Indeed, it is these
 Michael Walzer, Toward a Global Civil Society (Providence, : Berghahn Books, 1998),
p. 239.
 I’m using the categories of Titus Stahl, “Fundamental hope and practical identity,
(Unpublished manuscript, email to the author, July 6, 2016).
 William James, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, lecture 2 (New
York: Longmanns, 1907).
 See similar concerns expressed by Hannah Arendt in Alan Mittleman, Hope in a Demo-
cratic Age, p. 197, and by Aronson, Revising Social Hope, p. 157, and by Shannon Sullivan,
Pragmatism and Justice, p. 3.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
practices that sustain our commitment and enable us to achieve the content of
hoping, whatever they may be. Through hoping together, we build our resolve
and bolster our courage to change and improve the world. And when we hope
alongside others, we are buoyed when we face disappointment, obstacles, and
failures. Although some people may contend that American democracy re-
quires shared content to work, whether that be an unwavering commitment to
democratic values or a patriotic fervor for one’s nation, it is ultimately shared
hoping that binds us together and adapts to our changing environment.
Nonetheless, considering how shared content relates to hoping is worth-
while and may indicate things, values, and ways of living that educators
and institutions might specically nurture in citizens. Whereas Godfrey,
Waterworth, and other theorists emphasize the “objectives” of hope, which
are desired states of afairs, I follow Bonnie Honig in also acknowledging the
“objects” of hope in a democracy—real public things. Honig rightly warns,
“without them democratic life is not just impoverished but unsustainable. If
democratic theorists neglect public things, we end up theorizing the demos or
proceduralism without the things that give them purpose and whose adhesive
and integrative powers are necessary to the perpetual reformation of demo-
cratic collectivity.” Dewey describes the objects of hope in terms of desire
and satisfying the need to restore coordinated action and growth in the face of
indeterminate situations.
When the push and drive of life meets no obstacles, there is nothing
which we call desire. There is just life-activity. But obstructions pres-
ent themselves, and activity is dispersed and divided. Desire is the out-
come. It is activity surging forward to break through what damns it up.
The ‘object’ which then presents itself in thought as the goal of desire
is the object of the environment which, if it were present, would secure
a re-unication of activity and the restoration of its ongoing unity. The
end-in-view of desire is that object which were it present would link into
an organized whole activities which are now partial and competing.
The overarching content of hoping, for Dewey, is a democratic society that
supports the growth of individuals and ourishing life. He does not describe
 Waterworth, A Philosophical Analysis of Hope, p. 27.
 Bonnie Honig, Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair, (New York: Fordham University
Press, 2017), p. 90.
 John Dewey, “Desire and Intelligence,” John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899–1924, Volume
14: 1922, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, : Southern Illinois University Press, 1983),
p. 172.
  
   () -
individual citizens as pursuing this goal explicitly or directly in particular ways,
but rather as a spirit that guides our action and reection so that we are alert
to opportunities where we can improve democratic living. It gives a focus to
our activities as we employ our intelligence to clarify and direct our desires
and use our imagination to help us construct means to pursue them. Shade
describes this process well:
Committing to a hope indicates our willingness to promote actively,
in whatever way we can, realization of its end. Because it is not within
our reach, some degree of patience is needed. But in hoping, patience is
coupled with an active orientation toward the end, an orientation which
includes acting as if—testing our beliefs about the end and its means—
to see what we can contribute to its determination.
Here he brings together the act of hoping via habits and inquiry with the con-
tent of such hoping.
Our shared conditions, including the current problems faced in America
that I noted at the outset of this paper, can give rise to shared objects and ob-
jectives of hoping. And when motivated by a belief in meliorism and a recogni-
tion of the social source of habits, those shared ends may be for the things and
practices of democracy, whether those be formal principles such as justice and
equality, things such as public parks and schools, or ways of life that support
and engage democratic life, such as cooperation and deliberation. They may
also be values, like respect for persons, and practices, such as listening, that
have proven useful within our inquiries and in the face of indeterminate situ-
ations. Citizens work together to determine that those objects and objectives,
what Shade calls “particular hopes,” are desirable (in that they fulll present
needs but also do not block other, perhaps larger, aims) and realizable. When
the shared hopes arise from people, publics form where people work together
to solve current social problems and achieve common goods. The content of
such hoping comes to compose a vision of democracy, one that springs from
the people and is enacted by them, and one that is, admittedly and impor-
tantly, revisable.
 For more about this interpretation of Dewey, see Stephen M. Fishman and L. McCarthy,
John Dewey and the Philosophy and Practice of Hope (Urbana, : University of Illinois
Press, 2007), pp. 21, 51, 83.
 Shade, “Habits of Hope,” p. 31.
 Ibid., p. 71.
 Shade, “Habits of Hope,” pp. 19 and 36.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
But that vision of democracy also bears with it a past and a promise. The
spirit of dissent that founded American democracy is well-aligned with prag-
matist meliorism, reected in accounts of individual and collective eforts to
improve our conditions by replacing unjust systems or improving failing ones.
It also contains a history of a civil society that has provided what Peter Berger
calls “the plausibility structure” for hope. And, inherent within accounts of
democracy are hopeful beliefs that such a system can insure the freedoms of
individuals, provide political equality, and ofer opportunities for meaningful
participation. Culture, including democratic culture, is often thought of as in
the past—memorialized in traditions and statues. But culture is also about the
future that we hope for and the shared identity that results from being a part
of that vision and its formation.
One of the primary ways that we convey our vision of the future, and there-
by build culture and identity, is through storytelling. Stories also help us out of
the ruts we face because they give us accounts of how problems can be solved
and how life can be better—a check on the apathy increasingly prevalent to-
day. Stories can move us from passivity to participation in democracy, show-
ing us both examples of how to take action and why it’s worthwhile to do so.
Stories can also depict the objects and objectives of hope. Notably politicians
often evoke stories of the America they envision. But unless those stories arise
from the expressed visions of citizens themselves or motivate citizens to ac-
tion as a result, such stories fall short and are not capable of sustaining citizens
through dicult times. Stories build on personal and shared imagination to
give us illustrations of possibility. But storytelling is not just about telling (this
is especially true when it comes to politicians), rather is also about listening to
the needs and experiences of others so that we can reshape and improve our
vision for the future.
Walt Whitman declared that democracy is “a great word whose history
remains unwritten.” Part of hoping is writing a new history together. Or, in
Dewey’s words, “At the end as at the beginning the democratic method is as
fundamentally simple and as immensely dicult as is the energetic, unag-
ging, unceasing creation of an ever-present new road upon which we can walk
together.” That new future must reasonably account for past injustices (such
 Peter Berger, The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist
Age (Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 2014).
 These compose what Oliver Bennett calls the “democratic promise.” Bennett, Cultures of
Optimism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
 Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas” in Two Rivulets (Camden, : New Republic Print,
1876), p. 37.
 John Dewey, Freedom and Culture (New York: Prometheus Books, 1989).
  
   () -
as the structural inequality and racism I described at the outset), attend to
current struggles, and make feasible predictions, but it can also transcend and
transform them in some regards. It must remain uid and revisable. Even as
such, a “hope narrative” can sustain us and unite us.
From a pragmatist perspective, our identities are based in our habits. A prag-
matist understanding of hope urges us to see hope as not merely instrumental
toward achieving something else, but rather constitutive of our own identities.
Our identities also inuence how we interpret our past and our future. En-
acting habits of hope may then impact how we understand ourselves and how
we interpret our part in democracy and how we act on both. They are “condu-
cive to an increased self-understanding [because] we structure our hopes by
reecting on what it is that we truly want and what is attainable in our lives.”
Cheshire Calhoun further explains, “Hopers, by contrast, do not treat their
hopefully imagined future as merely a strategically rational hypothesis that it
might periodically be useful to adopt for planning purposes. Hopers inhabit
their hoped for future. Imaginative projection of themselves into the hoped
for future is constitutive of the way they pursue their ends.” When we form a
vision for the future, we come to engage in behaviors aligned with that future,
thereby shaping ourselves. Hope, then, isn’t delayed or just perpetually held of
toward the future, but rather is of value in the moment. This pragmatist view
of hope composes us now, rather than just moving us toward something else.
Finally, an identity grounded in hope may lead to a more ourishing de-
mocracy, in part because of its role in publics, which are at the heart of a vi-
brant democracy and are in contrast to the “complacent class.” Whereas we
tend to think of democracies as being made up of collection of citizens we call
“the public,” publics are active subsets of people who rally together around
some shared problem or interest. They tend to form when people are united
through some similar experience and have a need for their shared elements
to be addressed. Dewey explains, “The public consists of all those who are af-
fected by the indirect consequences of transactions to such an extent that it
is deemed necessary to have those consequences systematically cared for.
 I’m drawing here on Cheshire Calhoun’s notion of hope narratives. Cheshire Calhoun,
“Hope”, available at <
.doc.pdf>, p. 25.
 I’m drawing on Josiah Royce here whom John Kaag nicely summarizes in American
Philosophy: A Love Story (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016).
 Luc Bovens, “The value of hope,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59 (1999),
p. 676.
 Cheshire Calhoun, “Hope”, p. 23.
 John Dewey, The Public and its Problems (New York: H. Holt and Company, 1927), pp. 15–16.
contemporary pragmatism 15 (2018) 228-250
These publics openly discuss their shared consequences, often by forming or-
ganizations or movements, and by seeking a wide array of perspectives on the
issue at hand. There, they name their struggles and chart paths to improve-
ment, sometimes through developing shared content for their hopes. These
activities build a sense of belonging and mutual concern that counter the indi-
vidualism, self-interested behavior, and distancing of cynicism we frequently
see today. Supporting and enhancing scattered and edgling publics requires
deep and ongoing collaboration and communication that works to determine,
solve, and implement solutions to problems. To meet their needs, they envi-
sion alternative futures and construct public goods, including public things,
rather than mere material goods. Such is the work of habits of hope. Insofar as
habits of hope can be cultivated and nurtured formally through schools and
informally within families and civic organizations, they ofer a pathway out of
current problems that is sustainable and itself deeply hopeful.
... In the period of founding the University of Chicago's laboratory school and developing the arguments for his book Democracy and Education (1916), Dewey's interest in transformation focused on 'growth' (Aldrich, 2018a(Aldrich, , 2018b, a concept whose articulation anticipated his later treatment of 'meliorism'. According to Stitzlein (2018), Dewey's idea of growth "describes how reconstructions of our experiences through inquiry develops physical, intellectual, and moral capacities, actualizing them and helping them inform one another so that they continue in a chain that enables one to live satisfactorily" (p. 233). ...
... In light of this, we suggest that meliorism already underlies a great deal, if not most, of occupational science scholarship to date, and helps to explain founder Elizabeth J. Yerxa's (2020) characterization of the discipline as a "science of hope" (Yerxa, 2020, p. 22;cf. Rorty, 1999;Stitzlein, 2018;Voparil, 2014;Westbrook, 2005). ...
This article proposes that ‘meliorism’—a philosophical belief in people’s abilities to improve lived experience through engaged problem-solving —is a useful concept to describe and orient occupational science research, given the challenges of our time. This proposal derives from an intensive period of discussion through occupational science seminars, strategic planning sessions, and other activities at the University of Southern California’s Mrs. T. H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, including preparations for the 26th Occupational Science Symposium in 2019. While many disciplines and professions express a melioristic intent, we believe that occupational science and occupational therapy exemplify a particular understanding of meliorism, given the view of occupation that they share, as: 1) engaged activity that has meaning and purpose; and 2) a powerful tool that builds consciousness and practices that can promote desired change. We suggest that occupational scientists’ aim to develop impactful research manifests these conceptual foundations. Further, we argue that a commitment to meliorism requires concerted efforts to mobilize knowledge by intentionally planning for stakeholder engagement and societal impact across all phases of research. We suggest that active knowledge mobilization will enhance the knowledge base of occupational science and help to realize its meliorist potential in both research and practice contexts.
Full-text available
p>Human beings are ambitious and goal-oriented creatures. Many, for example, aim at stable and fulfilling careers, good health, and happy families. Some also pursue broader aims, such as social justice, technological progress, or scientific discovery. But with such ambition comes adversity. When our central aims come under threat, as they inevitably do, we often find ourselves pessimistic or fearful. Despair might threaten to take hold. It is thus tempting to look to hope and optimism as ways of withstanding, or even smothering, these negative emotions. But should we? This review is a detailed examination of the nature and value of hope and optimism. By and large, American society affirms the value of hope and optimism. A brief glance at your local bookstore’s self-help section is sure to display such bestsellers as Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life. In similar fashion, politicians seeking votes regularly promise us hope. Here we are reminded of Barack Obama’s well-known HOPE t-shirts and George W. Bush’s slogan, “A safer world and a more hopeful America” (Stitzlein 2019a, p. 5). But are hope and optimism really all they’re cracked up to be? There are growing doubts about the value of positive thinking. Speaking about the threat of climate change, Greta Thunberg remarks, “Adults keep saying, ‘we owe it to young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic” (2019, p. 22). In a memorable exchange between Ezra Klein and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the problem of political polarization, Coates asked, “I wonder how much hope you hold out for curing those institutional ills, those deepseated ills, in a way that we would all find peaceable.” Klein responded, “I’m not here to give you hope.” Coates then replied, “Good, because I don’t want it” (Klein, 18 Feb. 2020). In these remarks, Thunberg, Coates, and Klein are speaking of hope rather than optimism. This is important because they are distinct phenomena. One of the key tasks of this review will be to pry apart these two forms of positive thinking. Central to the distinction is that while optimism implies confidence in a successful outcome, hope does not. There is thus a possibility of “hoping against hope” even when optimism is lost. Because hope and optimism are distinct, their respective advantages and disadvantages are best explored separately. Here I begin with optimism and move subsequently to hope. It can likewise be misleading to talk about whether hope and optimism are good “on the whole.” Such abstract pronouncements obscure the differing roles that hope and optimism play in distinct aspects of our lives. Consequently, this review focuses on the functions of hope and optimism in different domains, including, for instance, healthcare, education, and politics. The primary subject of this review is the Hope and Optimism Initiative, a $4.5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation led by researchers at Notre Dame, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. This grant also supported numerous sub-projects for scholars working around the world. </p
Full-text available
What is hope? Though variously characterized as a cognitive attitude, an emotion, a disposition, and even a process or activity, hope, more deeply, a unifying and grounding force of human agency. We cannot live a human life without hope, therefore questions about the rationality of hope are properly recast as questions about what it means to hope well. This thesis is defended and elaborated as follows. First, it is argued that hope is an essential and distinctive feature of human agency, both conceptually and developmentally. The author then explores a number of dimensions of agency that are critically implicated in the art of hoping well, drawing on several examples from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The article concludes with a short section that suggests how hoping well in an individual context may be extended to hope at the collective level.
Despite the familiarity of hope in human experience, it is a phenomenon infrequently considered from a philosophical point of view. This book charts the centrality of hope in thought and action from first, second and third person perspectives. From everyday situations to extreme circumstances of trial and endings in life, the contours of hope are given a phenomenological description and subjected to conceptual analysis. This consistently secular account of hope sheds a different light on questions of agency and meaning.
This book is the summation of many decades of work by Peter L. Berger, an internationally renowned sociologist of religion. Secularization theory-which saw modernity as leading to a decline of religion-has been empirically falsified. It should be replaced by a nuanced theory of pluralism. In this new book, Berger outlines the possible foundations for such a theory, addressing a wide range of issues spanning individual faith, interreligious societies, and the political order. He proposes a conversation around a new paradigm for religion and pluralism in an age of multiple modernities. The book also includes responses from three eminent scholars of religion:Nancy Ammerman, Detlef Pollack, and Fenggang Yang.
Hope obeys Aristotle's doctrine of the mean: one should neither hope too much, nor too little. But what determines what constitutes too much and what constitutes too little for a particular person at a particular time? The sceptic presents an argument to the effect that it is never rational to hope. An attempt to answer the sceptic leads us in different directions. Decision-theoretic and preference-theoretic arguments support the instrumental value of hope. An investigation into the nature of hope permits us to assess the intrinsic value of hope. However, it must be granted to the sceptic that there is a tension between hope and epistemic rationality. I conclude with some reflections about the relationship between hope and character features that are constitutive of inner strength.
Overcoming 'Gloom and Doom
  • Brett Johnson
Brett Johnson, "Overcoming 'Gloom and Doom.'" 53
John Dewey, The Middle Works
  • John Dewey
John Dewey, "Desire and Intelligence," John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Volume 14: 1922, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, il: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983), p. 172.
John Dewey and the Philosophy and Practice of Hope
  • See Dewey
  • M Stephen
  • L Fishman
  • Mccarthy
For more about this interpretation of Dewey, see Stephen M. Fishman and L. McCarthy, John Dewey and the Philosophy and Practice of Hope (Urbana, il: University of Illinois Press, 2007), pp. 21, 51, 83.
These compose what Oliver Bennett calls the "democratic promise
These compose what Oliver Bennett calls the "democratic promise." Bennett, Cultures of Optimism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).