Progress and Directionality in Science, the Humanities, Society and Evolution

in Journal of the Philosophy of History
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This essay discusses progress and directionality, both in nature, in science and in society, treating as its starting-point the reflections, parallelisms and comparisons of Ruse’s essay, ‘A Threefold Parallelism for Our Time? Progressive Development in Society, Science and the Organic World’, but reaching substantially different conclusions. The essay thus ranges over progress and directionality in the world of natural evolution, in the sciences and the humanities, and in history and society. It defends non-relative progress in science and the humanities, criticising here both the approach to these disciplines of the strongly evolutionary epistemology of Hull and the more moderate evolutionary epistemology of Ruse. It further defends the possibility of progress and directionality in history and society, and also, following Rolston, in the course of evolution within the world of nature, where the kind of directionality to be found has multiple directions rather than being unilinear. Subsequently it relates conclusions about these fields to theological reflections (characteristic of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) about the creation of nature and society by a value-loving intelligence.

Progress and Directionality in Science, the Humanities, Society and Evolution

in Journal of the Philosophy of History

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References

3

J.B. BuryThe Idea of Progress: an inquiry into its origin and growth (New York: Dover, 1955; first published1932); John Baillie The Belief in Progress (London: Oxford University Press 1950); Robert Nisbet History of the Idea of Progress (London: Heinemann 1980).

4

Karl PopperThe Open Society and Its Enemies (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1945) Vol. ii (The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel Marx and the Aftermath) 261–274.

5

See Karl PopperThe Poverty of Historicism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1957) and The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism (London: Hutchinson 1982); for his refutation of historicism see The Open Universe 62–64.

9

Karl PopperConjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1963) 215–217.

10

Herbert ButterfieldThe Whig Interpretation of History (London: Bell1931).

11

ButterfieldChristianity and History (London: Bell1949).

13

See David L. HullScience as Progress An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press1988) 57–72.

18

Stephen Toulmin“The Evolutionary Development of Science”American Scientist57 (1967) 456–71; Toulmin Human Understanding (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1972).

19

Toulmin‘The Evolutionary Development of Science’465.

21

Karl PopperObjective Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press1972).

22

David Hull“A Mechanism and Its Metaphysics: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science”Biology and Philosophy 3 1988 123–155 atp. 126.

27

Michael RuseEvolutionary Naturalism: Selected Essays (London and New York: Routledge1995) 178.

31

Robin Attfield“Cultural Evolution, Sperber, Memes and Religion”Philosophical Inquiry35 3–4 (Summer-Fall 2011) 36–55; issn 1105–235X.

35

Larry Laudan“A Confutation of Convergent Realism”Philosophy of Science48.1 1981 pp. 19–49 at pp. 43–44.

41

Popper ibid. 49–50; PopperConjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1963) pp. 187–188.

42

Robin Attfield“Popper and Xenophanes”Philosophy89 (2014) 113–133.

44

See for example David Chalmers“Why Isn’t There More Progress in Philosophy?”Philosophy90 January 2015 1–31.

46

George Williams“Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics in Sociobiological Perspective”Zygon23 383–407.

51

See MidgleyEvolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears (London and New York: Methuen1985) 34; also Stephen Jay Gould Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1980) ch. 3.

56

Morris ibid. pp. 107 and 329.

57

Morris ibid. p. 329.

58

Rolston“Disvalues in Nature”The Monist75 (1992) 250–278. I have discussed this problem in Attfield Creation Evolution and Meaning chs. 6 and 7.

59

Xenophanes fragment B18: see PopperThe World of Parmenides p. 48.

60

See Robert John RussellCosmology From Alpha to Omega: The creative mutual interaction of theology and science (Minneapolis: Fortress Press2008) p. 216.

61

Russell ibid. p. 19; see also p. 212.

62

Russell ibid. p. 19.

63

Russell ibid. p. 120.

64

Russell ibid. p. 153.

65

Russell ibid. pp. 165–6.

66

Russell ibid. p. 182.

67

Russell ibid. pp. 121 153 181–4.

68

RuseEvolutionary Naturalism136 140 178–182.

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