The Idea of Progress and its Critiques
The notion of Progress is intimately tied to the development and self-understanding of modernity. The idea that the world is becoming a better, more civilized place has a long history and is rooted in the optimism that science, rationality and technology will lead the way to a more peaceful and idyllic world. Religious critics have argued that the idea of Progress represents the secularized version of religious ideas of Providence. While the notion of Progress is still pervasive, its hold on our understanding of the contemporary human condition is slipping. Confronted by world-historical catastrophies that not only challenge our faith in science and technology but also in the very idea that things will soon get better, the notion of Progress requires renewed critical attention. This course will engage the philosophical (or theoretical) bases of modernity and progress, and will draw upon staunch proponents, ambivalent visionaries and trenchant critics.