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Hope, Dying and Solidarity


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Hope takes on a particularly important role in end of life situations. Sustaining hope can have considerable benefits for the quality of life and any prospect of a good death for the dying. However, it has proved difficult to adequately account for hope when dying, particularly in some of the more extreme end of life situations. Standard secular accounts of hope struggle to establish how the fostering of hope may be possible in such situations. This leads to a practical ethical dilemma for those caring for the dying, the ‘paradox of hope’, whereby one can either help maintain the welfare of the dying by generating a misleading ‘false hope’ or maintain truthfulness and concede that hope is not possible. These two problems combine to leave individuals the prospect of dying in terrible circumstances facing only despair. To address this, I argue that we should look beyond standard intentional or dispositional accounts of hope in such cases and treat hope as a cluster concept. Rather than appeal to a unitary conception, what we precisely mean by ‘hope’ may therefore vary depending on the context of use. I outline an account of hope based on Marcel’s account of ‘absolute’ hope but offering an alternative, secular foundation based on solidarity that can explain how hope when dying in extreme circumstances is possible. Hence, where the more familiar accounts break-down in these circumstances, ‘hope talk’ may still be possible if it is seen as relying on this conception of hope.


Wrigley. (2019). Hope, Dying and Solidarity. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 22(1), 187-204.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 18, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 2, 2019
Publication Date Feb 15, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
Print ISSN 1386-2820
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 1
Pages 187-204
Keywords hope, dying, solidarity, end of life, paradox of hope, gabriel marcel, despair, concept of hope, good death
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