Is There Progress in Philosophy?

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Risto
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Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Risto » Sun Jan 10, 2016 2:50 pm

According to this thought experiment from the article There Is No Progress in Philosophy (http://commons.pacificu.edu/cgi/viewcon ... ontext=eip) "no":
Imagine that Aristotle, as he’s walking around the Lyceum, encounters a time-warp and pops forward to today, on a well-known campus somewhere in some English-speaking country, with the ability to speak English, dressed in modern garb, and that he doesn’t become deranged as a result of all of this. Curious about the state of knowledge, he finds a physics lecture and sits in. What he hears shocks him. A feather and an iron ball fall at the same rate in a vacuum; being heavier doesn’t mean falling faster, something he doesn’t understand. ... After he comes too, he soberly concludes that this modern world, this advanced time, has utterly surpassed his knowledge and the knowledge of his time. He feels dwarfed by our epistemic sophistication. Sadly, he trundles off to a philosophy class—a metaphysics class, as it turns out. Here he hears the professor lecturing about essences, about being qua being, about the most general structures of our thinking about the world. He knows exactly what the professor is talking about. Aristotle raises his hand to discuss some errors the professor seems to have made, and some important distinctions that he has not drawn. As the discussion proceeds, the metaphysics professor is a bit taken aback but also delighted at this (older) student’s acumen and insight. Then Aristotle goes to an ethics class, where he learns of the current importance of what is apparently called “virtue ethics.” He recognizes it immediately, but again, the professor seems to have left out some crucial details and failed to see some deeper aspects of the view. Aristotle raises his hand... This story of Aristotle’s return to philosophy no doubt is somewhat plausible to the reader (excluding, probably, the time-travel part). Perhaps it is no more than that or just barely that. But this is all I need. The fact that this story contains even a whiff of plausibility shows that the reader can discern a crucial difference between science and philosophy. From our twenty-first century perspective, we see that Aristotle was not even in the ballpark with most of his scientific ideas, theories, and conclusions. His works in science are only of historical interest. But he is a giant to this day in philosophy. We can learn by reading his philosophical works.

cladking
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by cladking » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:08 pm

There exists progress because scientists can stand on the shoulders of those who came before. It is the simple metaphysics and language of science that allows them to be hoisted up on the shoulders of the greats. We learn about the thinking of earlier scientists by means of complex and scientific language.

There is no progress in philosophy because there is no language of philosophy. Everything Aristotle or previous greats have said is deconstructed to mean what each listener believes it to mean. Language is confused and splintered.

It has been confused for 4000 years.

FlashDangerpants
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by FlashDangerpants » Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:37 am

The important point there is that Aristotle tried to answer questions on all sorts of topics using nothing but reasoning. Which didn't bring him to correct answers. Other philosophers eventually worked out how to answer many of those questions with experiments, so those questions no longer belong to philosophy and new sciences were instead spawned.

If our returned Aristotle walked into a Dennett or Fodor lecture, I imagine he would be a bit more confused than the example given allows for. But if those guys ever get their answers right, most likely new sciences will again be the result, not actual 'progress' within philosophy.

Skip
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Skip » Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:59 am

Thee is progress in ethics, political and social philosophies, because the perspective is broader. It becomes possible, with increased communication and accumulated literature, to take a longer, less parochial, less partisan look at human affairs, relationships and organizations.

Metaphysics don't change, because they were3 always nonsense and will always be nonsense.

Dalek Prime
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Dalek Prime » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:44 am

Good philosophy is based on reasoning from as solid and simple a baseline as possible. The process of philosophy does not change, but the individual doing the philosophy may progress, or regress, depending on how well he reasons from that baseline, and not jumping so far ahead that he misses a step in the reasoning.

XENA3001
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by XENA3001 » Wed Jan 13, 2016 11:46 am

Perhaps there is "progress" in the world of philosophy.

For example, the philosophy that was behind NAZI Germany was not only rejected, but defeated. Modern first world nations do not embrace such horrific notions; surely that is evidence of "progress" - at least to a degree.

Also, with greater scientific precision comes changes (progress ??) in philosophy. In the field of Medicine for example, much has been discovered, requiring philosophy to keep pace. Gene manipulation in utero for one, gives rise to entirely new horizons for philosophy/ethics to chart.

Like science, when a philosophy (&/or theory) doesn't work, it is rejected in search of something that better fits the facts.

s. martin fritz
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by s. martin fritz » Thu Feb 25, 2016 6:52 pm

Modern culture is dramatically different from all societies which came before. There has never been so much wealth, destructive power, and ability to communicate with every individual as there is today. Consequently, notions of equality, wealth redistribution, war, abortion, marriage, etc. are examined in ways never before available to the ancients.

A correct philosophy must prove itself relevant to the conditions of the past as well as the present. We have to explain both: Why it could be seen as vital in one century that a woman be a virgin on her wedding night, and in the next century view this as oppressive.

Another example, Karl Marx believed (as expressed in his book The Poverty of Philosophy) when the day came that all production would be in the hands of a central authority, it would be far more efficient in the distribution of work and tasks, at that future date, human production would skyrocket and class distinctions become a thing of the past and a social equality might be experienced.

But Marx did not live to see The Soviet Union or The PRC.

His ideas and his philosophy were tested and failed. Marx, like Plato, and like the Oneida Utopians put forth ideas and philosophic outlooks which were tested and came up short. Today we experiment with wealth redistribution, birth control, and life spans at a historically unique scale. Will this prove to be a benefit? Current political philosophy applies new ethical precepts to our cultural existence. Abortion which was bad is now good, and the death penalty which was once good is now bad.

I address the moral outlook of the past and the present in my book OUR HUMAN HERDS. I believe this book is a step forward and introduces new ideas into philosophy which have not been heard before.

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The Voice of Time
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by The Voice of Time » Fri Feb 26, 2016 11:24 pm

As already have been mentioned but less to the point, philosophy progresses quantitatively. But philosophy also progresses, like physics, in multiple directions, by generating deeper and more complex understandings. Simply put it: we can have more points of view, but we can also have bigger (deeper) points of view.

Walker
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Walker » Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:13 pm

In that same vein, the accumulation of human experience likely has an effect on the wiring, yet what is wired is the same clay as what squatted for so long in caves; mostly stuck to the earth then as now.

The physical act of a human walking on the moon and looking back at the earth has advanced mankind to an environmental state of consciousness where drought-stricken California dumps valuable fresh water into the ocean to save a fish.

There are some other firsts that would change philosophy and as with the fish, human rationality:

- man creates life

- man conquers death

- extraterrestrials appear

- inorganic matter becomes conscious

Walker
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Walker » Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:40 pm

FlashDangerpants wrote: The important point there is that Aristotle tried to answer questions on all sorts of topics using nothing but reasoning.
Sure, at one time the only way to define a dog was to observe it and think about it. Now there are blood tests and DNA tests that define dog. Reasoning and philosophy moves on from defining, towards the philosophical implications of a well-defined dog. PETA rights, etc.

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Lawrence Crocker
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Lawrence Crocker » Sun Feb 28, 2016 11:21 pm

The view of Aristotle's teacher's teacher, insofar as those views can be disentagled from those of the intermediary, may well have been that philosophy progresses by uncovering the failings of ever more sophisticated arguments about such matters of substance as justice and the nature of the human self. We may not have, and may never, reach agreement on the final truth on such topics, but we have better and better basis for knowing what doesn't work, and that is a respectable form of progress.

Philosophers in their own studies can find structurally bad arguments. In cooperation with empirical science they can also identify bad premises. Philosophers of mind are now in contact with psychologists and neuro-scientists in way that leads to progress more readily described as "positive." If this is "less purely and distinctively philosophical," is that so bad? Aristotle would not have been surprised. Activity that is simultaneously scientific and philosophical has been of no small importance, e.g. Einstein's special relativity thought experiments.

Obvious Leo
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Obvious Leo » Sun Feb 28, 2016 11:42 pm

Lawrence Crocker wrote: In cooperation with empirical science they can also identify bad premises.
They've got a pretty poor track record for doing so over the past few centuries, Lawrence, although I agree that this is what the philosophers SHOULD be doing. Unfortunately they've been asleep at the wheel while the lunatics were taking over the asylum. Nowadays when physicists devise models which make no sense the geeks simply redefine what making sense means rather than suspect that their models might be bullshit. Meanwhile the supine philosophers are remaining entrenched behind the walls of their ivory towers and allowing such bullshit to go unquestioned. It rather makes one pine for the good old days of ancient Greece when the whole bloody lot of them would have been rounded up and sold off into slavery.

cladking
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by cladking » Mon Feb 29, 2016 2:53 am

The Voice of Time wrote:As already have been mentioned but less to the point, philosophy progresses quantitatively. But philosophy also progresses, like physics, in multiple directions, by generating deeper and more complex understandings. Simply put it: we can have more points of view, but we can also have bigger (deeper) points of view.
This sounds more like fragmentation than progress.

Just as language continues to fragment so too does philosophy.

Obvious Leo
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by Obvious Leo » Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:15 am

cladking wrote:
The Voice of Time wrote:As already have been mentioned but less to the point, philosophy progresses quantitatively. But philosophy also progresses, like physics, in multiple directions, by generating deeper and more complex understandings. Simply put it: we can have more points of view, but we can also have bigger (deeper) points of view.
This sounds more like fragmentation than progress.

Just as language continues to fragment so too does philosophy.
I agree, because deeper understandings means less complex understandings, not more complex ones. Physics has also forgotten this but it's one of the most ancient metaphysical principles in philosophy. Simplicity is Truth, which in the modern parlance translates as Less is More.

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The Voice of Time
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Re: Is There Progress in Philosophy?

Post by The Voice of Time » Tue Mar 01, 2016 11:50 am

cladking wrote:This sounds more like fragmentation than progress.
So what? There's no reason why fragmentation can't be progress. Nobody said the goal of philosophy was to have one philosophy, so progressing towards any goal in philosophy would not depend on whether there's one or more philosophies.

(Philosophy also has no goal, so you can progress through any intention you make of it. Philosophy is a tool, and progresses in the same way as a hammer does to a job. It can be used in one particular job, and the job can either be completed or abandoned or changed along the way, and then it can work on a different job, or expand upon the job already done.)

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