Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with. Even more outrageous than this claim, though, is the blatant denial of its obvious truth by many practicing philosophers. The No-Progress view is explored and argued for here. Its denial is diagnosed as a form of (...) anosognosia, a mental condition where the affected person denies there is any problem. The theories of two eminent philosophers supporting the No-Progress view are also examined. The final section offers an explanation for philosophy's inability to solve any philosophical problem, ever. The paper closes with some reflections on philosophy's future. (shrink)
This paper concerns Jean Piaget's (1896–1980) philosophy of science and, in particular, the picture of scientific development suggested by his theory of genetic epistemology. The aims of the paper are threefold: (1) to examine genetic epistemology as a theory concerning the growth of knowledge both in the individual and in science; (2) to explicate Piaget's view of ‘scientific progress’, which is grounded in his theory of equilibration; and (3) to juxtapose Piaget's notion of progress with Thomas Kuhn's (1922–1996). (...) Issues of scientific continuity, scientific realism and scientific rationality are discussed. It is argued that Piaget's view highlights weaknesses in Kuhn's ‘discontinuous’ picture of scientific change. (shrink)
The paper discusses the sense in which the changes undergone by normative economics in the twentieth century can be said to be progressive. A simple criterion is proposed to decide whether a sequence of normative theories is progressive. This criterion is put to use on the historical transition from the new welfare economics to social choice theory. The paper reconstructs this classic case, and eventually concludes that the latter theory was progressive compared with the former. It also briefly comments on (...) the recent developments in normative economics and their connection with the previous two stages. (Published Online April 18 2006) Footnotes1 This paper suspersedes an earlier one entitled “Is There Progress in Normative Economics?” (Mongin 2002). I thank the organizers of the Fourth ESHET Conference (Graz 2000) for the opportunity they gave me to lecture on this topic. Thanks are also due to J. Alexander, K. Arrow, A. Bird, R. Bradley, M. Dascal, W. Gaertner, N. Gravel, D. Hausman, B. Hill, C. Howson, N. McClennen, A. Trannoy, J. Weymark, J. Worrall, two annonymous referees of this journal, and especially the editor M. Fleurbaey, for helpful comments. The editor's suggestions contributed to determine the final orientation of the paper. The author is grateful to the LSE and the Lachmann Foundation for their support at the time when he was writing the initial version. (shrink)
Alexander Bird argues for an epistemic account of scientific progress, whereas Darrell Rowbottom argues for a semantic account. Both appeal to intuitions about hypothetical cases in support of their accounts. Since the methodological significance of such appeals to intuition is unclear, I think that a new approach might be fruitful at this stage in the debate. So I propose to abandon appeals to intuition and look at scientific practice instead. I discuss two cases that illustrate the way in which (...) scientists make judgments about progress. As far as scientists are concerned, progress is made when scientific discoveries contribute to the increase of scientific knowledge of the following sorts: empirical, theoretical, practical, and methodological. I then propose to articulate an account of progress that does justice to this broad conception of progress employed by scientists. I discuss one way of doing so, namely, by expanding our notion of scientific knowledge to include both know-that and know-how. (shrink)
I defend my view that scientific progress is constituted by the accumulation of knowledge against a challenge from Rowbottom in favour of the semantic view that it is only truth that is relevant to progress.
Alexander Bird and Darrell Rowbottom have argued for two competing accounts of the concept of scientific progress. For Bird, progress consists in the accumulation of scientific knowledge. For Rowbottom, progress consists in the accumulation of true scientific beliefs. Both appeal to intuitions elicited by thought experiments in support of their views, and it seems fair to say that the debate has reached an impasse. In an attempt to avoid this stalemate, we conduct a systematic study of the (...) factors that underlie judgments about scientific progress. Our results suggest that (internal) justification plays an important role in intuitive judgments about progress, questioning the intuitive support for the claim that the concept of scientific progress is best explained in terms of the accumulation of true scientific belief. (shrink)
This essay concerns the question of how we make genuine epistemic progress through conceptual analysis. Our way into this issue will be through consideration of the paradox of analysis. The paradox challenges us to explain how a given statement can make a substantive contribution to our knowledge, even while it purports merely to make explicit what one’s grasp of the concept under scrutiny consists in. The paradox is often treated primarily as a semantic puzzle. However, in “Sect. 1” I (...) argue that the paradox raises a more fundamental epistemic problem, and in “Sects.1 and 2” I argue that semantic proposals—even ones designed to capture the Fregean link between meaning and epistemic significance—fail to resolve that problem. Seeing our way towards a real solution to the paradox requires more than semantics; we also need to understand how the process of analysis can yield justification for accepting a candidate conceptual analysis. I present an account of this process, and explain how it resolves the paradox, in “Sect. 3”. I conclude in “Sect. 4” by considering the implications for the present account concerning the goal of conceptual analysis, and by arguing that the apparent scarcity of short and finite illuminating analyses in philosophically interesting cases provides no grounds for pessimism concerning the possibility of philosophical progress through conceptual analysis. (shrink)
This paper primarily deals with theconceptual prospects for generalizing the aim ofabduction from the standard one of explainingsurprising or anomalous observations to that ofempirical progress or even truth approximation. Itturns out that the main abduction task then becomesthe instrumentalist task of theory revision aiming atan empirically more successful theory, relative to theavailable data, but not necessarily compatible withthem. The rest, that is, genuine empirical progress aswell as observational, referential and theoreticaltruth approximation, is a matter of evaluation andselection, and (...) possibly new generation tasks forfurther improvement. The paper concludes with a surveyof possible points of departure, in AI and logic, forcomputational treatment of the instrumentalist taskguided by the `comparative evaluation matrix''. (shrink)
Natural selection explains how living forms are fitted to theirconditions of life. Darwin argued that selection also explains what hecalled the gradual advancement of the organisation, i.e.evolutionary progress. Present-day selectionists disagree. In theirview, it is happenstance that sustains conditions favorable to progress,and therefore happenstance, not selection, that explains progress. Iargue that the disagreement here turns not on whether there exists aselection-based condition bias – a belief now attributed to Darwin – but on whether there needs to be (...) such a bias for selection to count as explaining progress. In Darwin''s own view, selection explained progressso far as more complex organisms have the selective advantage whenselection operates unimpeded. I show that these two explanations ofevolutionary progress, selection and happenstance, answer for theirobjectivity to different standards, and for their truth or falsehood todifferent features of the world. (shrink)
Modern biology is ambivalent about the notion of evolutionary progress. Although most evolutionists imply in their writings that they still understand large-scale macroevolution as a somewhat progressive process, the use of the term “progress” is increasingly criticized and avoided. The paper shows that this ambivalence has a long history and results mainly from three problems: (1) The term “progress” carries historical, theoretical and social implications which are not congruent with modern knowledge of the course of evolution; (2) (...) An incongruence exists between the notion of progress and Darwin’s theory of selection; (3) It is still not possible to give more than a rudimentary definition of the general patterns that were generated during the macroevolution of organisms. The paper consists of two parts: the first is a historical overview of the roots of the term “progress” in evolutionary biology, the second discusses epistemological, ontological and empirical problems. It is stated that the term has so far served as a metaphor for general patterns generated amongst organisms during evolution. It is proposed that a reformulation is needed to eliminate historically imported implications and that it is necessary to develop a concept for an appropriate empirical description of macroevolutionary patterns. This is the third way between, on the one hand, using the term indiscriminately and, on the other hand, ignoring the general patterns that evolution has produced. (shrink)
After having received little attention over the past decades, one of the least known human rights—the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications—has had its dust blown off. Although included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)—be it at the very end of both instruments -this right hardly received any attention from States, UN bodies and programmes and academics. The role of science (...) in societies and its benefits and potential danger were discussed in various international fora, but hardly ever in a human rights context. Nowadays, within a world that is increasingly turning to science and technology for solutions to persistent socio-economic and development problems, the human dimension of science also receives increased attention, including the human right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. This contribution analyses the possible legal obligations of States in relation to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, in particular as regards health. (shrink)
This article seeks to clarify the concept of progress in philosophy. It treats progress as a kind of development. But not every development is a progress. When we talk about progress, what really matters is the direction of development. In some cases it is relatively easy to reach agreement about this direction. But not in the case of philosophy, if we abstract it from the obvious and the trivial, like the number of books on philosophy. As (...) a result, the article concludes that there cannot be progress in philosophy. Instead we see a continual multiplication of interpretations. (shrink)
The authors propose the integrity capacity construct with its four dimensions (process, judgment, development and system dimensions) as a framework for analyzing and resolving behavioral, moral and legal complexity in business ethics' issues at the individual and collective levels. They claim that moral progress in business comes about through the increase in stakeholders who regularly handle moral complexity by demonstrating process, judgment, developmental and system integrity capacity domestically and globally.
Philosophy has been characterized (e.g., by Benson Mates) as a field whose problems are unsolvable. This has often been taken to mean that there can be no progress in philosophy as there is in mathematics or science. The nature of problems and solutions is considered, and it is argued that solutions are always parts of theories, hence that acceptance of a solution requires commitment to a theory (as suggested by William Perry's scheme of cognitive development). Progress can be (...) had in philosophy in the same way as in mathematics and science by knowing what commitments are needed for solutions. Similar views of Rescher and Castañeda are discussed. (shrink)
After referring to Bertrand Russell's view of philosophy as stated in his book The Problems of Philosophy, according to which the value of philosophy lies not in the achievement of any truth or certainty but in its capacity to "enlarge our thoughts", I address the issue of the nature of philosophical controversies. Based on a development and application of Russell's view, I criticize the prevailing assumption that the existence of protracted, unsettled controversies shows that there is no progress in (...) philosophy. My criticism points to the static, undifferentiated view of philosophical controversies associated to that assumption. In order to argue for the need of a more sophisticated view, I distinguish between progressive and degenerated controversies as well as between normal and extraordinary ones. Then I propose a model of the changing phases that philosophical controversies often go through. Finally, I take as an example of application of such model the history of the main controversies that took place along twenty century philosophy of science. My conclusion is that in this case, and in some other important cases too, it may be rightly claimed that there have been progress in philosophy in the Russellian sense of an enlarged understanding of the objects under philosophical reflection. (shrink)
In this challenging essay, Maarten Doorman argues that in art, belief in progress is still relevant, if not essential. The radical freedoms of postmodernism, he claims, have had a crippling effect on art, leaving it in danger of becoming meaningless. Art can only acquire meaning through context the concept of progress, then, is ideal as the primary criterion for establishing that context. The history of art, in fact, can be seen as a process of constant accumulation, works of (...) art commenting on one another and enriching one another's meanings. It is these complex interrelationships and the progress they create in both art and its observers that Doorman, in a display of great philosophical erudition, defends. (shrink)
Rationale One's understanding of medical progress – what it is, how it is pursued and how it is assessed – may be deeply dependent on one's understanding of the metaphysics of medicine, and of diseases in particular. -/- Aims and Objectives In this paper I present a new account of the nature of diseases, neither realist nor constructivist, and describe what progress in medicine looks like if we understand diseases in this way. -/- Conclusions This new account, Constructive (...) Realism, may provide a better account of medicine than either realism or constructivism. (shrink)
Geologists, Paleontologists and other historical scientists are frequently concerned with narrative explanations targeting single cases. I show that two distinct explanatory strategies are employed in narratives, simple and complex. A simple narrative has minimal causal detail and is embedded in a regularity, whereas a complex narrative is more detailed and not embedded. The distinction is illustrated through two case studies: the ‘snowball earth’ explanation of Neoproterozoic glaciation and recent attempts to explain gigantism in Sauropods. This distinction is revelatory of historical (...) science. I argue that at least sometimes which strategy is appropriate is not a pragmatic issue, but turns on the nature of the target. Moreover, the distinction reveals a counterintuitive pattern of progress in some historical explanation: shifting from simple to complex. Sometimes, historical scientists rightly abandon simple, unified explanations in favour of disunified, complex narratives. Finally I compare narrative and mechanistic explanation, arguing that mechanistic approaches are inappropriate for complex narrative explanations. (shrink)
The question what scientific progress means for a particular domain such as medicine seems importantly different from the question what scientific progress is in general. While the latter question received ample treatment in the philosophical literature, the former question is hardly discussed. I argue that it is nonetheless important to think about this question in view of the methodological choices we make. I raise specific questions that should be tackled regarding scientific progress in the medical sciences and (...) demonstrate their importance by means of an analysis of what evidence-based medicine (EBM) has, and has not, to offer in terms of progress. I show how critically thinking about EBM from the point of view of progress can help us in putting EBM and its favoured methodologies in the right perspective. My conclusion will be that blindly favouring certain methods because of their immediately tangible short-term benefits implies that we parry the important question of how best to advance progress in the long run. This leads us to losing sight of our general goals in doing research in the medical sciences. (shrink)
Rationale: In this article, I argue that we need a new perspective in the debate on autonomy in medicine, to understand many of the problems we face today – dilemmas that are situated at the intersection of autonomy and heteronomy, such as why well informed and autonomous people make unhealthy lifestyle choices. If people do not choose what they want, this is not simply caused by their lack of character or capability, but also by the fact that absolute autonomy is (...) impossible; autonomous individuals are ‘contaminated’ by heteronymous aspects, by influences from ‘outside’. Consequently, there are many good reasons to question the widely accepted hierarchical opposition of autonomy (progress) versus heteronomy (paternalism) in medicine. In an earlier article an analysis is made of the neologism ‘oughtonomy’ to support the thesis that when it comes down to human existence, autonomy and heteronomy are intertwined, rather than being merely opposites. Methods: In this article, I reflect upon how social conditions might improve our ‘choice architecture’, what Thaler & Sunstein have called ‘nudging’: how to change individual health choices without being paternalistic? I explore the extent to which both oughtonomy and nudging are able to challenge the question of autonomy in today’s medicine. Results and Conclusions: Autonomy may and should be a shared target in today’s medicine, but we should never forget that it is always intertwined with heteronomy. Starting from this perspective, progress in medicine demands far more than the increase of autonomy. (shrink)
In all disciplines there is the question of how to promote progress and offset decline. But, what are progress and decline ? For this short article, the main discussion centers on biology. A solution called functional specialization begins to emerge as relevant to all of the sciences, technologies and arts. This introductory article ends with some heuristics on various follow-up issues.
The so-called March of Progress depicts human evolution as a linear progression from mohkey to man. Shelley (1996) analyzed this image as a visual argument proceeding through "rhetorical" and "demonstrative" modes of visual logic. In this paper, I confirm and extend this view of visual logic by examining variations of the original March image. These variations show that each mode of visual logic can be altered or isolated in support of new conclusions. Furthermore, the March can be included in (...) a visual "frame" to produce new arguments, much as a verbal argument can be made a component of a new and larger argument. (shrink)
As the title of this article suggests, I feel the need to contribute to the process of revitalizing the teaching of ethics and/or any other kind of applied ethics as well. The methods, forms and aims of these disciplines have to be revived, revitalized and actualized in order to increase the moral consciousness and understanding of moral agents. I consider the increasing of moral consciousness as the basic precondition for the moral progress of the whole society and mankind as (...) well. It is not an easy task in a world where technological, informational and scientific progress is moving forward rapidly and brings many benefits to people. On the other hand, it also brings up new complicated and delicate issues, moral dilemmas and questions for which a suitable and sustainable answer has to be found. Therefore, there is an obligation to guarantee that the moral progress will not slow down in this process of rapidly changing circumstances of human existence. This can be achieved by implementing some new methods of teaching or at least the flawless usage of older methods as well as using ethics of social consequences as the basis of our critical reflections and our decision making process in order to improve the contemporary situation of moral stagnation. (shrink)
Hull's recent work in evolutionary epistemology is marred by a deep tension. While he maintains that conceptual and biological evolution are both driven by selection processes, he also claims that only the former is globally progressive. In this paper I formulate this tension and present four possible responses (including Hull's). I argue that Hull's position rests on the assumption that there is a goal which is sufficiently general to describe most scientific activity yet precise enough to guide research. Working from (...) within Hull's framework, I argue that a non-progressionist stance is both preferable and more consistent with Hull's basic commitments. (shrink)
This provocative collection of essays written by the influential Greek scholar E. R. Dodds between 1929 and 1971. represents the wide range of his literary and philosophical interests. Insightful and learned, the essays combine profound scholarship with the lucid humanity of a teacher aware of the special value of Greek studies in the modern world.
In this paper I analyze the difficult question of the truth of mature scientific theories by tackling the problem of the truth of laws. After introducing the main philosophical positions in the field of scientific realism, I discuss and then counter the two main arguments against realism, namely the pessimistic metainduction and the abstract and idealized character of scientific laws. I conclude by defending the view that well-confirmed physical theories are true only relatively to certain values of the variables that (...) appear in the laws. (shrink)
El problema de la inconmensurabilidad y, en particular, el del progreso científico, está asociado a -dos nombres: Kuhn y Feyerabend, cuyas propuestas hicieron que muchos pusieran en duda la aparente evidencia del llamado “progreso científico, relativizando su validez a cada escuela o paradigma. En este escrito mostraremos que este tipo de relativismo epistémico — al igual que la teoría convergentista de la verdad — carecen de validez filosófica e histórica y de qué modo la idea de “progreso científico es compatible (...) con la tesis de la inconmensurabilidad más allá de las dificultades onto-semánticas que ella implica. Esto supone abandonar el llamado punto de vista enunciativo de las teorías científicas (centrado sobre sentencias o enunciados) y adoptar un punto de vista no-enunciativista (centrado sobre estructuras o sistemas donde la relación interteórica de aproximación permite subsumir diferentes casos de inconmensurablidad no triviales y validar en ellos la noción de progreso científico. (shrink)
In the last thirty years of his life Kant was preoccupied with the question of whether or not the "signs of progress" could be elicited from the vale of tears of the historical process. In what follows I am interested in the question of what kind of meaning Kant's historico-philosophical hypothesis of progress can have for us today. In order to provide an answer to this question, I make a distinction between system-conforming and system-bursting, or unorthodox, versions of (...) historical progress. This distinction is made in order to show that only system-bursting versions of progress can prompt us to confer contemporary meaning on Kant's philosophy of history as a learning process that is conflict ridden and without illusions. (shrink)
This paper challenges Bird’s view that scientific progress should be understood in terms of knowledge, by arguing that unjustified scientific beliefs (and/or changes in belief) may nevertheless be progressive. It also argues that false beliefs may promote progress.
In this paper we provide a compact presentation of the verisimilitudinarian approach to scientific progress (VS, for short) and defend it against the sustained attack recently mounted by Alexander Bird (2007). Advocated by such authors as Ilkka Niiniluoto and Theo Kuipers, VS is the view that progress can be explained in terms of the increasing verisimilitude (or, equivalently, truthlikeness, or approximation to the truth) of scientific theories. According to Bird, VS overlooks the central issue of the appropriate grounding (...) of scientific beliefs in the evidence, and it is therefore unable (a) to reconstruct in a satisfactory way some hypothetical cases of scientific progress, and (b) to provide an explanation of the aversion to falsity that characterizes scientific practice. We rebut both of these criticisms and argue that they reveal a misunderstanding of some key concepts underlying VS. (shrink)
Surprisingly enough, modified versions of the confirmation theory of Carnap and Hempel and the truth approximation theory of Popper turn out to be smoothly synthesizable. The glue between confirmation and truth approximation appears to be the instrumentalist methodology, rather than the falsificationist one.By evaluating theories separately and comparatively in terms of their successes and problems (hence even if they are already falsified), the instrumentalist methodology provides – both in theory and in practice – the straight route for short-term empirical (...) class='Hi'>progress in science in the spirit of Laudan. However, it is argued that such progress is also functional for all kinds of truth approximation: observational, referential, and theoretical. This sheds new light on the long-term dynamic of science and hence on the relation between the main epistemological positions, viz., instrumentalism (Toulmin, Laudan), constructive empiricism (van Fraassen), referential realism (Hacking and Cartwright), and theory realism of a non-essentialist nature (Popper), here called constructive realism.In From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism (2000) the above story is presented in great detail. The present synopsis highlights the main ways of theory evaluation presented in that book, viz. evaluation in terms of confirmation (or falsification), empirical progress and truth approximation. (shrink)
What is the nature of scientific progress, and what makes it possible? When we look back at the scientific theories of the past and compare them to the state of science today, there seems little doubt that we have made progress. But how have we made this progress? Is it a continuous process, which gradually incorporates past successes into present theories, or are entrenched theories overthrown by superior competitors in a revolutionary manner? Theories of Scientific Progress (...) presents the arguments for and against both these extremes, and the positions in between. It covers the interpretations of scientific progress from William Whewell through Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos to Thomas Kuhn and beyond, to the latest contemporary debates. Along the way John Losee introduces and discusses questions about evidential support and the comparison of theories; whether scientific progress aims at truth or merely problem-solving effectiveness; what mechanisms underlie either process; and whether there are necessary or sufficient conditions for scientific progress. He ends with a look at the analogy between the growth of science and the operation of natural selection in the organic world, and the current ideas of evolutionary theorists such as Stephen Toulmin and Michael Ruse. (shrink)
This paper argues that we can acknowledge the existence of moral truths and moral progress without being committed to moral realism. Rather than defending this claim through the more familiar route of the attempted analysis of the ontological commitments of moral claims, I show how moral belief change for the better shares certain features with theoretical progress in the natural sciences. Proponents of the better theory are able to convince their peers that it is formally and empirically superior (...) to its rivals, and the better theory may be promoted to the status of the truth. Yet there is no 'decision-procedure' for ethics any more than there is for molecular biology. The betterness of true theories can be grasped through what I term 'undirectional narratives' of progress. And while there are true moral claims and perhaps numerous moral truths yet to be discovered, we should reject currently popular forms of moral realism with bivalence. Some moral claims lend themselves to the construction of fully reversible, bi-directional narratives and are likely neither true nor false. (shrink)
Information technology (IT) is continuously making astounding progress in technical efficiency. The time, space, material and energy needed to provide a unit of IT service have decreased by three orders of magnitude since the first personal computer (PC) was sold. However, it seems difficult for society to translate ITâs efficiency progress into progress in terms of individual, organizational or socio-economic goals. In particular it seems to be difficult for individuals to work more efficiently, for organizations to be (...) more productive and for the socio-economic system to be more sustainable by using increasingly efficient IT. This article provides empirical evidence and potential explanations for this problem. Many counterproductive effects of IT can be explained economically by rebound effects. Beyond that, we conclude that the technological determinism adopted by decision-makers is the main obstacle in translating ITâs progress into non-technical goals. (shrink)