What Should I Hope From You?

Hope in Humanity

  • Philosophy

Principal Investigators

Adrienne M. Martin
Murty and Sunak Associate Professor of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
Claremont McKenna College


Hope is widely viewed as simultaneously a resource and a hazard, shoring us up in hard times but also, sometimes, leading us astray. In her recent book, How We Hope: A Moral Psychology, Martin provided a philosophical exploration of hope’s role in human motivation. Building on this previous work, Hope in Humanity examines a distinctive form of hope, the hope we invest in people. Martin argues that this interpersonal hope structures our relationships in important but overlooked ways. In Part I, she demonstrates how, through interpersonal hope, we urge and encourage each other to meet challenging standards. In Part II, she presents an exciting new moral theory, arguing that our shared humanity is the source of a universal interpersonal hope for compassion.

Moral philosophers and moral psychologists study emotions in the context of interpersonal relations have been primarily occupied (reasonably enough) with understanding how we hold people responsible for wrong action. We therefore have a rich literature on interpersonal emotions that have the tone of demand, such as resentment, indignation, guilt, blame, and other forms of moral anger. Yet our interpersonal lives are not structured exclusively by demands and concerns about right and wrong; we also, for example, urge and encourage each other to meet and surpass challenging standards. Martin examines an array of non-demanding interpersonal emotions—disappointment (the feeling of being let down), gratitude, appreciation, pride, and admiration—and argues that they reflect how we urge and encourage each other through the investment of interpersonal hope. With chapters dedicated to individual hopeful emotions, as well as systematizing chapters locating these emotions and the practices expressing them within the hope family tree, Part I of Hope in Humanity provides a detailed map of previously unexplored territory within the realm of interpersonal relations.

Demands are imperatives. Interpersonal hopes, by contrast are precatives—pleas or urges instead of commands. Many people see respect for persons—or humanity—as a fundamental moral imperative. The second part of Hope in Humanity argues that compassion for all members of humanity is a fundamental moral precative. Respect for humanity is a moral imperative because the members of humanity are rational agents, or end-setters. However, the members of humanity are valuable not only because we are end-setting agents; we are also valuable because we experience the world as subjects. Compassion, understood as experiencing another’s experience as real and legitimate, is a moral precative because of this latter value. In presenting compassion as a moral precative, and further arguing for the mutually nourishing natures of respect for end-setting agency and compassion for experiential subjectivity, Hope in Humanity brings to attention a novel and compelling theory of the values beating at the heart of interpersonal relationships.