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Hope and Necessity

Sarah Pawlett-Jackson


In this paper I offer a comparative evaluation of two types of “fundamental hope”, drawn from the writing of Rebecca Solnit and Rowan Williams respectively. Arguments can be found in both, I argue, for the foundations of a dispositional existential hope. Examining and comparing the differences between these accounts, I focus on the consequences implied for hope’s freedom and stability. I focus specifically on how these two accounts differ in their claims about the relationship between hope and (two types of) necessity. I argue that both Solnit and Williams base their claims for warranted fundamental hope on a sense of how reality is structured, taking this structure to provide grounds for a basic existential orientation that absolute despair is never the final word. For Solnit this structure is one of unpredictability; for Williams it is one of excess. While this investigation finds both accounts of fundamental hope to be plausible and insightful, I argue that Williams’s account is ultimately more satisfying on the grounds that it offers a realistic way of thinking about a hope necessitated by what it is responsive to, and more substantial in responding to what is necessary.


Hope; Fundamental Hope; Rowan Williams, Rebecca Solnit, Emmanuel Levinas,

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