Toward a Philosophy of Progress


Kant divided concepts into those of nature and those of freedom[1], and now let’s introduce a third concept, lying between these two, which is that of nature which has been transformed by freedom.

With the establishment of this third category we can also now envisage a new philosophy between the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of morals that would be a philosophy of progress: which is concerned with what we can achieve through the alteration of nature and which would have an ultimate of creating eternity – because eternity has to be the ultimate aim of all progress.

This philosophy of progress has both technically-practical and morally-practical principles, geared towards that which is not yet practical but which should be, and hence, which should be the aim of freedom.

The existence of progress means that the practical itself is constantly evolving with the development of the technically possible. Or, in other words, the theoretical of today creates the practicalities of tomorrow’s freedom.



The philosophy of progress takes, as its first assumption, that anything is possible and that the impossible is a temporary illusion: things are impossible only until we discover how they can be made possible.

Impossibility only exists while a) we are incapable of developing our technological skills enough to be able to render things we desire to be possible; or that b) we lack the desire to render certain things possible. This lack of desire can come about because of b.1) the condition in which the imagined possibility is morally undesirable (e.g.: the creation of a hard-core artificial-intelligence, by which we mean a super-fast, self-conscious computer that would have access to unlimited information instantaneously and the power to control all that information at its own will, should be considered impossible, not because we could never create it, but because it would very easily and likely destroy us if it ever were to be created. Moral undesirability, therefore, renders the theoretically possible a practical impossibility).

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics, OUP, p. 7


3 thoughts on “Toward a Philosophy of Progress

  1. Excellent start on developing your third category, Paul. (And despite what the naysayers might say, Kant is a good starting point for anyone looking for a solid base to push off of.) Two pressure points: (1) I think “a philosophy of progress” might be a bit too optimistic, as it seems freedom can transform nature in a destructive way as well, and (2) moral undesirability may only make the theoretical possibility a practical impossibility if freedom is exercised by seamlessly moral beings, whereas amoral and immoral motivations may complicate your theory. Gary

    • Thanks, Gary. The moral and immoral will always complicate all optimism and positivism, but that is the very reason why we need optimistic, positive philosophies. Without them, the negative wins.

      • Hey Paul, I’m with you. Thinking of Kant’s extreme obsession with clarity and precision (which is ironically the very thing that makes his big 3 critiques so impenetrable), and trying to push your theory toward water-tight logic. But, again, I’m with you. As an old hippie, I often self-identify as a “naive idealist” when asked about my views on the world.

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