Nancy Snow


principal investigator

Nancy Snow
Associate Professor, Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Marquette University

Nancy Snow received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Marquette University in 1980 and 1982 and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1988. For the past twenty years she has been a member of the Philosophy Department at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is currently a tenured associate professor. Her area of specialization is ethics, with interests in virtue ethics, virtue theory, and moral psychology. She has published articles on specific virtues, virtue and oppression, virtue and flourishing, and topics at the interface of psychology and virtue theory, such as habitual virtuous actions and automaticity. Her book, Virtue as Social Intelligence: An Empirically Grounded Theory (Routledge, 2009), draws on psychology to show that Aristotelian virtue theory can be empirically grounded. Her current research projects include a multidisciplinary book on hope, and a book on the moral psychology of nonviolence in various traditions, including Gandhian, Buddhist, Christian, and feminist. Additional research interests include comparative studies of Aristotelian habituation and Confucian ritual as means of acquiring virtue, and of Gandhi and Frantz Fanon on shedding colonialized identities and rebuilding personalities.

Landscapes of Hope: The ‘What,’ ‘Why,’ and ‘How’ of Hope
Hope has been studied by surprisingly many disciplines, for example, by philosophy, theology, psychology, the social and cultural sciences, and the sciences of health care. The current study gathers together the main strands of this multidisciplinary work on hope. The primary objectives are to: first, provide a comprehensive overview of major traditions of thought about hope from various disciplines; second, use these disparate perspectives to forge an integrated vision of hope that brings together common themes, areas of overlap, and compatible strands of thinking; third, gain insight into what hope is, why it is valuable, and how it can be cultivated and used as a positive motivating force; fourth, argue that hope is a virtue in the philosophical tradition inspired by Aristotle, that is, as an enduring state of character that is regularly manifested across a variety of different types of situations; and finally, garner insights into the disciplines studied in this research by uncovering the presuppositions that underlie their approaches to thinking about hope. From the descriptive ‘landscape’ of hope that is crafted in this volume, the author extracts a prescriptive theory of hope as a moral, intellectual, and civic virtue.

Most of the research for this study has been completed. The author has reviewed conceptions of hope from various disciplines, and has formulated an integrated conception of hope and a number of “hope themes” common to disciplinary studies of hope. The author distinguishes between hope for specific ends or objects, and hopefulness as a deeper disposition or character trait. Hope for specific objects has a ‘bare bones’ structure that has been enriched by thinkers from many disciplines. ‘Bare bones’ hope is a desire for an end or object, coupled with the belief that it is attainable. Thus, hope occupies a conceptual space between impossibility and certainty. Hopefulness as an enduring disposition is an orientation of openness to possibility, a forward-looking attitude that does not foreclose options. The author argues that hopefulness is an Aristotelian-type moral virtue consisting of appropriate motivation, affect, and practical wisdom that contributes to the well-being of its possessors. As a virtue, hopefulness lies between the vices of despair on one hand, and presumption on the other. Hope is also an intellectual virtue that aids its possessors in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Finally, hope is a civic virtue that contributes to the well-being of citizens in society, and to the flourishing of societies as wholes.

The author also explores some of the pitfalls of hope, especially false hope. She argues that the possibility of false hope does not undermine the numerous benefits and overall value of good hope, both to its possessor and to society as a whole. The author expects to have a book manuscript ready for submission to a publisher by the fall of 2012.

The author would like to see the vision of hope resulting from this research entered into experimental programs in psychology and neuroscience, disseminated in schools, community, and hospital education programs, and introduced into peace-making initiatives.

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