Philosophical Progress: In Defence of a Reasonable Optimism

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (2017)
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Abstract

Many people believe that philosophy makes no progress. Members of the general public often find it amazing that philosophers exist in universities at all, at least in research positions. Academics who are not philosophers often think of philosophy either as a scholarly or interpretative enterprise, or else as a sort of pre-scientific speculation. And many well-known philosophers argue that there is little genuine progress in philosophy. Daniel Stoljar argues that this is all a big mistake. When you think through exactly what philosophical problems are, and what it takes to solve them, the pattern of success and failure in philosophy is similar to that in other fields. In philosophy, as elsewhere, there is a series of overlapping topics that determine what the subject is about. In philosophy, as elsewhere, different people in different historical epochs and different cultures ask different big questions about these topics. And in philosophy, as elsewhere, big questions asked in the past have often been solved: Stoljar provides examples. Philosophical Progress presents a strikingly optimistic picture of philosophy - not a radical optimism that says that there is some key that unlocks all philosophical problems, and not the kind of pessimism that dominates both professional and non-professional thinking about philosophy, but a reasonable optimism that views philosophy as akin to other fields.

Author's Profile

Daniel Stoljar
Australian National University

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