The Intersection of Hopes and Dreams

Journal of Social Philosophy 51 (4):645-663 (2020)
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A familiar injunction is to follow your dreams. But what are these dreams? Despite their importance, philosophers have almost entirely ignored the topic. This paper fills this gap by advancing an account of the psychological makeup and the normative powers of dreams. To elucidate their psychology, I identify the salient features of dreams. I argue that these features are explained by the hypothesis that dreams are a species of hope. More specifically, the proposal is that dreams fit the standard model of hope, which characterizes hope in terms of desire and belief. But this analysis is only plausible if hope, so understood, is suited to play the normative roles that dreams appear to play (otherwise the significance of dreams will need to be deflated). I argue that dream-constituting desires play a dual normative role: they ground weighty practical reasons (rooted in the identity of the dreamer) and likewise help us to learn about our reasons for action. I argue that hope in the standard sense can fulfill both roles. So while many philosophers in recent years have been focused on analyzing more complex forms of hope, it turns out that our most basic hopes are among the most normatively significant.

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Michael Milona
Toronto Metropolitan University


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