Losing Hope: Injustice and Moral Bitterness

Hypatia 32 (2):363-379 (2017)
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In this article, I defend a conception of bitterness as a moral emotion and offer an evaluative framework for assessing when instances of bitterness are morally justified. I argue that bitterness is a form of unresolved anger involving a loss of hope that an injustice or other moral wrong will be sufficiently acknowledged and addressed. Orienting the discussion around instances of bitterness in response to social and political injustices, I argue that bitterness is sometimes morally justified even if it is ultimately undesirable to bear. I then suggest that focusing only on the harms and risks of bitterness can distract from its positive role as a moral reminder about a past or persistent injustice, indicating that there is still moral and often political work left to do. Finally, I address the concern that bearing bitterness may lead to despair and inaction. I respond by arguing that moral agents can and do persist in their moral and political struggles with bitterness, and without hope that their efforts will be successful.



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Katie Stockdale
University of Victoria

Citations of this work

Finding hope.Michael Milona - 2019 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 (5):710-729.
Hope from Despair.Jakob Huber - 2023 - Journal of Political Philosophy 31 (1):80-101.
Hope, Solidarity, and Justice.Katie Stockdale - 2021 - Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 7 (2):1-23.
Hoping-well: Aristotle’s phenomenology of elpis.Pavlos Kontos - 2021 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 29 (3):415-434.

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References found in this work

Love and knowledge: Emotion in feminist epistemology.Alison M. Jaggar - 1989 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):151 – 176.
The value of hope.Luc Bovens - 1999 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (3):667-681.
Collective Resentment.Katie Stockdale - 2013 - Social Theory and Practice 39 (3):501-521.
Expecting Bad Luck.Lisa Tessman - 2009 - Hypatia 24 (1):9-28.

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