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A Conception of Philosophical Progress

11 July 2011


There is no consensus about appropriate philosophical method that can be relied on to settle philosophical questions and instead of established findings, there are multiple conflicting arguments and positions, and widespread disagreement and debate. Given this feature of philosophy, it might seem that philosophy has proven to be a worthless endeavour, with no possibility of philosophical progress. The challenge then is to develop a conception of philosophy that reconciles the lack of general or lasting agreement with the possibility of philosophical progress. I present such a conception in this paper. I argue that the aim of philosophy is to resolve philosophical problems, which is different from establishing settled and final answers or positions. Philosophical problems involve inadequate or incongruous conceptions that cannot be settled once and for all but can be resolved by transforming our conceptions so they are now congruous and adequate. There is philosophical progress every time a warranted, defensible position is developed that resolves a philosophical problem, even if there are competing resolutions and further problems to resolve, as there always are in philosophy.


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