Progress and Historical Reflection in Philosophy

In Philosophy and the Historical Perspective. Oxford: Proceedings of the British Academy. pp. 51-68 (2018)
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Abstract
What is the epistemic significance of reflecting on a discipline’s past for making progress in that discipline? I assume that the answer to this question negatively correlates with that discipline’s degree of progress over time. If and only if a science is progressive, then what people think or argue in that discipline ceases to be up-to-date. In this paper, I will distinguish different dimensions of disciplinary progress and consequently argue that veritic progress, i.e. collective convergence to truth, is the most important dimension for disciplines with scientific ambitions. I will then argue that, on the one hand, veritic progress in philosophy is more significant than many current philosophers believe, but that, on the other hand, it also has severe limitations. I will offer an explanation of these limitations that suggests that the history of philosophy should play some role, though only a minor one, in systematic philosophy.
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