Pragmatism without Progress: Affect and Temporality in William James’s Philosophy of Hope

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Author: Bonnie Sheehey1
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Philosophers and intellectual historians generally recognize pragmatism as a philosophy of progress. For many commentators, pragmatism is tied to a notion of progress through its embrace of meliorism – a forward-looking philosophy that places hope in the future as a site of possibility and improvement. I complicate the progressive image of hope generally attributed to pragmatism by outlining an alternative account of meliorism in the work of William James. By focusing on the affectivity and temporality of James’s meliorism, I argue that James offers a non-progressivist version of hope that is affectively tempered by melancholy and oriented temporally toward the present.

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