1.1 The Question of Progress
Science and technology are inherently progressive enterprises of rational
interaction with nature based on increasingly sophisticated observation and
experimentation. So here later means better: there is no sense returning to
an earlier state of the art after another has visibly established its superiority.
But ordinary life is something else again. Here younger generations do not
have a track record of profiting from the experience to their elders: each
generation learns only from its own mistakes
PRESIDENTIAL VIEWS OF
he issue before us—philosophicalprogress—has very different
dimensions. In particular, it encompasses a range of very different
• Can philosophy make progress?
• Does philosophy presently make progress?
• Has philosophy made progress in the past? If so, when, where,
and how much?
• What are the prospects of philosophicalprogress in the future?
And all of these questions presuppose yet another crucially prelimi-
• What is it that would (or could
arises what is it that we are after when we investigate a “philosophical development”? Are we looking for some philosophicalprogress specified by some inherent goal? Or do we allege that some change amounting in a particular outcome is the result of external forces? Are we interested in historical or in a theoretical and conceptual development? Or do we think of an intellectual development in which historical and theoretical aspects are narrowly intertwined? At this point, it might be helpful to introduce some terminology I have encountered in Denmark in informal
Today’s critical state of philosophy is examined by considering two of its aspects: the way in which philosophy presently is ever more typically practised (increasing professionalism and specialisation) and the new challenges it has to face to keep up with the changed scientific, and more generally cultural and social context. The essay outlines some prospects of progress in the light of those which still now can be considered the proper tasks of philosophical inquiry. Such tasks are singled out through an historical survey of the original characters of philosophy and an appraisal of its theoretical motivations. The importance of the history of philosophy and the necessity of achieving a virtuous relation among the various philosophical disciplines are stressed to contrast the dangers of excess specialisation and professionalism.