Thinking about Progress: From Science to Philosophy

Noûs 56 (4):814-840 (2022)
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Is there progress in philosophy? If so, how much? Philosophers have recently argued for a wide range of answers to these questions, from the view that there is no progress whatsoever to the view that philosophy has provided answers to all the big philosophical questions. However, these views are difficult to compare and evaluate, because they rest on very different assumptions about the conditions under which philosophy would make progress. This paper looks to the comparatively mature debate about scientific progress for inspiration on how to formulate four distinct accounts of philosophical progress, in terms of truthlikeness, problem-solving, knowledge, and understanding. Equally importantly, the paper outlines a common framework for how to understand and evaluate these accounts. We distill a series of lessons from this exercise, to help pave the way for a more fruitful discussion about philosophical progress in the future.

Author Profiles

Finnur Dellsén
University of Iceland
James Norton
University of Tasmania
Insa Lawler
University of North Carolina, Greensboro


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