Philosophical progress and reasonable optimism

ERI Building - Room G51 (Ground floor)
Arts and Law, Research
Tuesday 3rd June 2014 (17:00-19:00)
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Royal Institute of Philosophy, Birmingham Branch

Public Lecture

Daniel Stoljar (ANU)

Philosophical progress and reasonable optimism

This lecture is free and open to all! It will be held in room G51, which is located at the ERI Building (G3 in the Campus map). For further information, please contact Dr Jussi Suikkanen.

Can there be progress in philosophy?  On the one hand, it is often thought that philosophical problems are perennials for which it is pointless to expect a solution. On the other hand, professional philosophy seems to have organized itself, perhaps unconsciously, around the opposite view: how else to explain the panoply of books, papers, journals, conferences, graduate programs, websites etc.? Who is right? And what turns on who is right?

This paper defends a reasonable optimism about philosophical progress. Optimistic, because I argue that we have answered philosophical questions in the past and therefore should expect to do so in the future.  Reasonable, because the sort of optimism I have in mind does not extend to all kinds of problem reasonably thought of as philosophical nor even to every instance of those kinds of problem.