ABSTRACT

This article makes the case for the continued relevance of former U.S. president Barack Obama's conception of social hope. To present this conception, I compare it with the views of hope developed by two prominent political philosophers: Immanuel Kant and Richard Rorty. Kant, Rorty, and Obama all espouse the idea that progress must be founded on hope since hope motivates action. Yet the three differ on the grounds of hope. Kant believes that social progress depends on our shared humanity. Similarly, Obama regards progress (in the United States) as founded on a set of values shared by all Americans. Given our divisions today, however, Obama's premise appears implausible. Rorty's philosophy of hope provides a way out of this worry: progress need not depend on an essential feature shared by all but can be achieved by “stitching together” coalitions between groups that share interests. Still, this does not imply that we should abandon Obama's conception of hope altogether. The idea of audacious hope implies that we should have the courage to resist the temptation to let divisions quell our efforts toward political progress. Obama's conception of hope, with the Rortian corrective I defend, holds much promise in our current political climate.

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