• Pantagruel
    262
    The human world that we live in day to day seems to have many different dimensions, technological, scientific, aesthetic, historic, ethical. Given that this is so, do you think that progress is something that has to in the long run take place across all these domains? Or do you think that progress is primarily scientific and technological? Can we have true progress in one of these dimensions only, or is culture ultimately a product of the integration of all of them?
  • Anthony
    168
    Progress in a game of chess would be making a move toward checkmating your contestant. If the game had no checkmate as the end, it could be played interminably, and it would be impossible to say what is progress. This, then, is the thing lost on me when hearing people talk of progress. Progress toward what? Techno-utopia? Yet there's a point of technological comfort and convenience beyond which it starts to appear as though people don't want to live or do anything to take care of themselves. In this case, techno-utopian progress might be defined as an ever augmenting accelerant finalizing in destruction of life and spirit.
  • Pantagruel
    262
    Yes, this is kind of the spirit of what I had in mind. Like Durkheim's idea of anomie...progress too far in one direction starts to become damaging in other areas, I would say. Maybe even leading to cultural decadence.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Progress is when you like the way that things have changed better than the way they used to be.
  • BrianW
    880


    Can we say that human progress is towards humans and humanity attaining a level/degree where we have mastery over our life mechanism and the environment in which it exists? If so, then it will have to be progress across the board (in as many dimensions as possible).
  • Pantagruel
    262
    That kind of hearkens back to Descartes' idea that science can make us "masters and possessors of nature." Personally, I see it as more of a coming into equilibrium, but in the same spirit as what you describe I think.
  • Anthony
    168
    Inasmuch as humans don't walk on humans, bask in humans, harvest and eat humans....human progress can't be separated from the setpoints and servomechanisms in our bodies and biogeochemical cycles. The organism-environment demands we include the environment in the definition of progress. Alas, we can't eat dirt or the atmosphere alone and live...so we have to take care of them or work within their delimitation to take care of and sustain ourselves.

    On that note, progress= preserving life for as long as possible. Bioengineering mosquitoes out of existence rests on a crazed notion one species can determine the biogeochemical cycles of a planet and not disrupt interdependencies of delicate, complex, nonlinear systems and have them spiral out of control (butterfly effect). And somehow, I don't feel any of us would want to be a part of such a system that would require so rigorous, Procrustean control. An essay to replace the homeostasis of a planet with engineering would involve a kind of determinism worse than anything I can imagine (for the life it was meant to sustain). The humanist version of progress could ultimately lead to a life not worth living....sterile...vapid...no surprise.

    Setting up a colony on Mars would be good opportunity for transhumanist elites to test their image of progress. Living in a big dome without anything unpredictable. So much so, even a animatronic man might come to life...
  • Pantagruel
    262
    On that note, progress= preserving life for as long as possible. Bioengineering mosquitoes out of existence rests on a crazed notion one species can determine the biogeochemical cycles of a planet and not disrupt interdependencies of delicate, complex, nonlinear systems and have them spiral out of control (butterfly effect).
    I'm with you there. The ecosystem has been balancing itself out over millenia. The idea that we can introduce genetic changes into the real world and have any idea what the long term effects are is just...bad science.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    Basically, summing up a development, the first part of which is omitted here for brevity:

    Then+What is History—what has occurred,
    While When+What will become Progress.
    Then+Where begets Memory—remembrance,
    While When+Where induces Wishes, as hopes.

    Progress+Wishes combines into Vision;
    Progress+History grants Change-in-Structure;
    Memory+History makes for Learning;
    Memory+History births Change-of-Outlook.

    Change-in-Structure + Vision = Planning,
    Change-in-Structure + Learning = Creating,
    Change-of-Outlook + Vision = Growth;
    Change-of-Outlook + Learning = Direction.

    Finally, Planning, Growth, Creating,
    And Direction make for being’s Who.
  • alcontali
    802
    Or do you think that progress is primarily scientific and technological?Pantagruel

    Through the fallacy of scientism, everything else seems to regress, to the point that scientific and technological progress have even become self-defeating. In my impression, people who believe in the fallacy of scientism will die out, simply because they are even failing to sexually reproduce.
  • JosephS
    108
    In comparing it to a chess game, as @Anthony does, a concern arises that we may be heading towards a local maxima (using some metric or analog to progress), that nevertheless ends in overall failure (extinction).

    This happens in chess when you accept a gambit from your opponent that leads to a lost position.

    Is an assessment of "progress" forever contingent?

    Forgoing the subjective vs. objective angle, our look-a-head is forever limited.
    Perhaps this was already included in the last sentence of the post from @Anthony
  • Pantagruel
    262
    Through the fallacy of scientism, everything else seems to regress, to the point that scientific and technological progress have even become self-defeating. In my impression, people who believe in the fallacy of scientism will die out, simply because they are even failing to sexually reproduce.
    LOL!
  • Gus Lamarch
    26


    What is progress? I'll let Nietzsche answer your question:

    "Humanity doesn't represent in absolute an evolution in direction for the better, to the strongest, to the most elevated. Progress is just a modern idea, therefore, a false idea." Friedrich Nietzsche - The Antichrist
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    That kind of hearkens back to Descartes' idea that science can make us "masters and possessors of nature." Personally, I see it as more of a coming into equilibrium, but in the same spirit as what you describe I think.Pantagruel
    @Pantagruel

    I feel that Descartes here goes against your argument. He would see us as the masters and possessors of nature rather than its shepherds and protectors.

    I agree with you though. Systems theory isn’t that big a stretch for me to believe from the Theory of Moral Ecology.

    I think people need to understand that dominating and mastering things is a remnant desire from a world scourged with legal slavery. Our current systems are made with prejudice and inequality at their centre and this has coloured our entire perspective of our place in the universe.

    It’s like how a lot of coders are white and Asian and so a lot of facial recognition software has a hard time with faces of other ethnicities.

    Personally I’m in favour of making allies of nature and being keepers of balance in all things... but then I’m Taoist-universalist so I would say that haha
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    I’d say it’s ‘tool based’. So I can completely understand why people would be inclined to say ‘scientific’/‘technological’.

    We create tools for higher efficiency. Efficiency frees up time for more exploration. We build on the tools we have - be this, artistically, scientifically or technologically. The primary item of progress is efficiency.
  • Pantagruel
    262
    I feel that Descartes here goes against your argument. He would see us as the masters and possessors of nature rather than its shepherds and protectors.Mark Dennis

    Actually I agree, but I think that particular perspective results from him being a product of his age. Which just goes to show how different fields of knowledge all have to advance in concert. The whole concept of "ecology" doesn't really become evident until you overpopulate and overindustrialize the world!
  • Gnomon
    224
    Can we have true progress in one of these dimensions only, or is culture ultimately a product of the integration of all of them?Pantagruel
    I suppose "progress" is in the eyes of the beholder. It depends on your definition, and on your ability to see long-term trends in history. If you are wandering aimlessly, as many believe the universe is doing, just putting one foot in front of another is minimally progressive. But, if you have a specific goal, and the will to reach it, then progress will be apparent as you get closer to that destination, even if it's ultimately unreachable. For most living things in this world though, progress is simply living for one more day, since the "goal" of their genes is to reach sexual maturity, to reproduce, and to leave behind copies of your genes. Yet, for a few creatures, who can imagine the future and plan for it, more specific and arbitrary goals provide a sort of "pull" in a particular direction, which may not coincide with the "aims" of genes, or the "dialectic" of the world. In any case, Progress is measured relative to the plotted course toward a desired or specified end.

    Nietzsche is famous for seeing no ultimate point to the arbitrary path of history : just change for the sake of change; going around in circles, the "eternal return". Others, such as Hegel, saw a progressive pattern in the zig-zag path of history, seemingly guided by a worldwide "will" : the "spirit of history". But the most adamant historical progressives are also pessimistic about Natural or Cultural progress, relying instead on divine Will to propel the world toward a final reckoning : Apocalypse. Most philosophers seem to be cautiously optimistic, in the sense that Ethical behavior is worth the effort.

    Based on the Enformationism worldview, my position on progress falls somewhere in the middle range. LIke Hegel, I perceive a heuristic-but-progressive path of development across all the indicated domains : technological, scientific, aesthetic, historic, ethical. Of course, Technological progress is undeniable (e.g. Moore's Law) even though the long-term outcome may be debatable. But, like Steven Pinker in Better Angels of Our Nature, and Michael Shermer in The Moral Arc, I think even Moral progress is evident in history, for those who look beyond the front page Fake News. So yes, I believe the world, in all dimensions, is progressing in an overall upward arc toward some unknown ultimate over-the-horizon finale. Unfortunately, my personal path of self-interest may be unrelated to the Cosmic Progression, except to the extent that it gives me a reason for general optimism. :cool:


    The Better Angels : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature

    The Moral Arc : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Arc

    Cosmic Progression : http://bothandblog3.enformationism.info/page28.html
  • Let'sHaveFun1239
    3
    I think that progress is when you don't stop in the one place and do yourself better and better every day.
  • Pantagruel
    262
    As personal progress, for sure!

    I am starting to think that, culturally, we have reached the tipping point of decadence and are now cartwheeling down into decay.
  • Let'sHaveFun1239
    3
    Do you know, I agree with your point of view but not full. I think that all sides to human life make progress because of the culture-changing with time. Everything around us changing: doing new technological discoveries, culturally and moral changing. The last time, women don't wear opened clothes but now it isn't so. You think that it's a step to down into decay but I think that it's progress. The question is how to relate to these changes.

    Sorry for my English I'm not a native speaker.
  • Congau
    49

    Progress means improvement, that something gets better.
    Human progress in general means that human life in general gets better.
    The only thing that can make human life good, is happiness. (The only thing that is good in itself, that is, the only thing that is not wanted for the sake of anything else, is happiness. See Aristotle)
    So, to ask if there has been real progress in human history is to ask whether humanity is happier today than before.

    Development in science and technology does not in itself make us happier. The more technologically advanced we get the more the demands and expectations increase. Improved transportation, for example, means that we can go farther and faster, but it also means that we need to get go farther and faster. More opportunities only cause more needs, and we remain on the same level of happiness/unhappiness.

    The only improvement that has unambiguously contributed to human happiness, is the progress in medical science. Many diseases can now be cured and physical suffering alleviated. Increased longevity means that there is less sorrow caused by the premature loss of loved ones.

    All other candidates for progress are such that for every advantage you can name a disadvantage.
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