Is There Progress in Philosophy


  • Oscar Nudler Bariloche Foundation



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.