The view that the sciences make progress, while the arts do not, is extremely common. This lecture will challenge it. I begin by distinguishing teleological progress from pragmatic progress. You make pragmatic progress not by coming closer to a goal, but by solving some of the problems of your current state. Scientific progress should be seen as pragmatic. When the point is recognized, it becomes evident that scientific progress has social dimensions. A socially embedded notion of scientific progress then allows for a parallel concept of progress applicable to the arts.
Philip Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. His research interests lie in the ethical and political constraints on scientific research, the evolution of altruism and morality, and the seeming conflict between science and religion. Kitcher earned his BA from Christ’s College, Cambridge, in mathematics and philosophy of science, and a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. He was elected a fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002, and the American Philosophical Association awarded him its inaugural Prometheus Prize in 2006 for lifetime achievement in “expanding the frontiers of science and philosophy.” Kitcher has also received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, National Endowment of the Humanities, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Library of Congress. Kitcher’s recent books include The Ethical Project (2011); Preludes to Pragmatism (2012); Deaths in Venice (2013); and Life after Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism (2014).