Friday, January 17, 2014

Adrienne Martin's "How We Hope: A Moral Psychology"

Adrienne M. Martin is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How We Hope: A Moral Psychology, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the second page of Chapter Four, “Faith and Sustenance without Contingency,” and launches my assault on a family of views.
Only Religious Hope Sustains: All hope is, deep down, the hope for religious salvation. Only hope underpinned by the hope for religious salvation has true sustaining power in the face of serious trials and tribulations. The hope for religious salvation is inseparable from faithful belief in the existence of a Divine Creator.
Actually, I’m not really an “assault-launching” kind of philosopher. The better analogy for my style is probably “world-building:” I show that “Only Religious Hope Sustains” is wrong by demonstrating the possibility of the hope it aims to exclude. This is the subject of Chapter Four: “unimaginable hope.”
Unimaginable Secular Hope Sustains: Sometimes, we hope for good outcomes without being able to imagine what they would be. The possibility of such outcomes can provide us with reason to go on, even during the most difficult human trials; and the fact that we cannot imagine the outcomes means nothing we encounter can prove our hope fruitless.
I dedicate much of the previous chapter to challenging the popular notion that hope is a uniquely sustaining attitude--the notions that, without hope, we inevitably succumb to despair, and that, with hope, we are always able to find that spark to go on in the darkness. Hope’s sustaining power is, in general, much more contingent and hazardous than that: it can let us down, mislead, even undermine our agency in fundamental ways. When I introduce unimaginable hope in Chapter Four, therefore, I am identifying a way in which the popular notion I have previously criticized is right: a very specific form of hope does have a unique sustaining power--and it is a form of hope that, contrary to some theological philosophers’ insistence, is available to thoroughgoing atheists.

On page 99, I present the subject of Jonathan Lear’s book, Radical Hope, Chief Plenty Coups, as an example of a person who had an unimaginable religious hope. (Chief Plenty Coups was the last great chief of the Crow Nation. Guided by a spiritual vision he had as a child, he led the Crow people to transition from a warrior way of life to an agrarian one, when threatened with annihilation by the white man.) In the rest of the chapter, I use Immanuel Kant’s and Gabriel Marcel’s theories of religious hope in order to fill out this concept of unimaginable hope, and then argue that the religious aspect is inessential to its sustaining power.

In short, page 99 is where I begin my argument for the possibility of secular faith.
Learn more about the book and author at Adrienne Martin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue