Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Coping is customarily understood as those thoughts and actions humans adopt while undergoing situations appraised as threatening and stressful, or when people’s sense of who they are and what they should do is significantly challenged. In these cases, coping thoughts and actions help one endure and hopefully overcome these stresses, threats, and/or challenges. Discussions of coping are common among psychologists, but nearly absent from the philosophical literature despite their importance in theories of agency and for closely related concepts like resilience. Building from psychological theories of coping, I offer a first philosophical exploration of the concept by showing how it can relate to and enrich extant work on agency and resilience and contribute to a more nuanced account of agency itself, especially as exercised in less-than-ideal conditions.

In common parlance, to cope means “to manage, deal (competently) with, a situation or problem” (Oxford English Dictionary).  More technically, psychologists understand coping as the ways individuals deal with stress (Folkman and Moskowitz 2004), where stress is defined as “a negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes that are directed either toward altering the stressful event or accommodating to its effects” (Taylor 2015: 113). Situations prompting coping might range from the mundane—as when navigating the normally stressful periods of our lives, such as the transition from childhood to adolescence, or common challenges of adulthood (conflict in partnership, parenting, work/job)—to increasingly more exceptional circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one, acquiring a severe illness (acute or chronic), facing mental health issues, or enduring abusive or…


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