Reparative agency and commitment in William James’ pragmatism

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Informa UK Limited


This paper highlights a central feature of William James’ pragmatism to challenge the conflicting charges that his political and ethical thought amounts to either a Hamlet-like impotence or a Promethean-like sovereignty. I argue that James develops an account of reparative agency and commitment which figures in his philosophy of hope as a response to the problematics of action. Reparative agency concerns the possibility of acting in the midst of constraints that frustrate or otherwise inhibit action. Conceptualizing agency in this way entails a reevaluation of the status of commitment in James’ thought and the possibility of a more collective practice of hope.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in British Journal for the History of Philosophy on 2022-02-24, available online:


william james, agency, hope, commitment, pragmatism


Bonnie Sheehey (2022) Reparative agency and commitment in William James’ pragmatism, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 30:5, 818-836, DOI: 10.1080/09608788.2022.2032589
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