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“Hope: a solution to the puzzle of difficult action”

New article from Catherine Rioux (Université Laval), entitled “Hope: a solution to the puzzle of difficult action”, published in Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.


Pursuing difficult long-term goals typically involves encountering substantial evidence of possible future failure. If decisions to pursue such goals are serious only if one believes that one will act as one has decided, then some of our lives’ most important decisions seem to require belief against the evidence. This is the puzzle of difficult action, to which I offer a solution. I argue that serious decisions to φ do not have to give rise to a belief that one will φ, but can instead be accompanied by a hope to φ. Hope can motivate and rationalize the various actions that we associate with serious commitment. It can also account for the existence of special pressures to adopt an agential stance toward one’s future. Because hope can be cognitively rational when belief is not, there is no problematic tension between the ideal of epistemic rationality and the phenomenon of difficult action.