Why Isn’t Philosophy Making More Progress?
There has not been large collective convergence to the truth on the big questions of philosophy. The big questions of philosophy are things like: What is the relationship between mind and body? How do we know about the external world? What are the fundamental principles of morality? Large collective convergence on these questions requires a high average degree of agreement among members of the philosophical community on the answers to the questions. Convergence to the truth requires that this agreement involves true beliefs about the answers.
Here is an argument for the central thesis. It has two premises, an empirical premise and a logical premise.
(1) Empirical premise: There has not been large collective convergence on the big questions of philosophy.
(2) Logical premise: If there has not been large collective convergence on the big questions of philosophy, there has not been large collective convergence to the truth on the big questions of philosophy.
(3) Conclusion: There has not been large collective convergence to the truth on the big questions of philosophy.
We may take the logical premise to be uncontroversial and focus on the empirical premise. Chalmers takes the empirical premise to be plausible to those with passing familiarity with philosophical practice. We do not have all the empirical data required for a systematic investigation of the premise, but we have some of it. However, philosophy is still young and we are still learning how to do it well. It might turn out that we are on the cusp of an answer, or it might not. All one can do is keep doing philosophy as well as one can and see where it leads.
David Chalmers is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. He is also Professor of Philosophy at New York University. In 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
This event is organized by “Kulturutvalget” and “Filosofisk supplement”.