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Thoughts on Progress

by Samuel Phineas Upham

I recently re-read an essay called “Rethinking Progress: A Kantian Perspective” by Marc Schattenmann. It was included in my book Space of Love and Garbage. Marc Schattenmann is Associate Director of the Public Policy School Project at the University of Erfrot, Germany. He was a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard during the 1999–2000 academic year. He is currently writing a dissertation on Kant’s political philosophy.

Here is the bio (above) from the essay and a quotation of my favorite paragraphs of the essay (below).

Why think about progress? In this chapter, I try to show that we have good reasons to think about progress—if we do it the right way. I will defend this claim by examining Immanuel Kant’s theory of progress. Kant dealt with the issue of progress in numerous writings, especially in Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784), What Is Enlightenment? (1784), On the Common Saying: ‘That May Be correct in Theory, but It Is of No Use in Practice’ (1793), Perpetual Peace (1795), and the Second Part of The Contest of the Faculties, entitled “A Renewed Attempt to Answer the Question: Is the Human Race Continually Improving?” (1798).

This chapter explores Kant’s theory of political progress in order to show its systematic connection with his theoretical and practical philosophy and its importance for his normative philosophy of politics. In particular, I stress four points that have often been neglected or misrepresented:

  • Kant’s theory of progress is an integral part of his philosophical system. (This claim is part of an argument among Kant scholars.)
  • Kant’s view of progress is realistically utopian. (This claim is directed against the so-called “Realists” in political theory and international relations theory.)
  • Kant’s notion of progress is essentially anti-deterministic. (This claim is directed against the followers of Hegel.)
  • The progress of humanity does not depend on the moral progress of individuals. (This claim is directed against the followers of Marx.)

This Book is available for sale on Ebay:  Space of Love & Garbage – Samuel Phineas Upham

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