My conception is that philosophy does progress, but in a different way and degree than how science progresses. My problem here though is in assuming that philosophy is small enough a word to use to encompass all the different ways and degrees there could be that philosophy progresses. It's almost as if the word 'philosophy' got too big, and has to divide up into analytical philosophy and continental philosophy just to answer this question.
There are many distinctions to be made.
I think there is something about the analytic side to philosophy where a type of progress is possible unlike in the continental realm. The continental side draws its content from culture, imagination, 'reality', atmospheres, those which are real, or surreal, but not abstract, nothing that can be called mystical, or without being reduced to what can inter-subjectively be considered meaningful. Continental philosophy will only see its own progress from within its usefulness, and its usefulness is intrapersonal, or subjective in its nature. The progress will therefore only come from the individual, and the content the individual draws from, well, who is to say there is any progress in culture, or 'reality', etc? There is evolution, but if there is
progress, the continental philosopher must be "analytical" in order to figure out if there is any progress in those domains.
Remembering from what jgweed said in another post, something along the lines of "Nietzsche was concerned that we were losing touch with what it means to live, Heidegger with what it means to be, and Kierkegaard with what it means to be with God", I think these examples show how even though philosophers concern themselves with an ideal that the domains of culture or humanity ought to undergo the same progress which has happened within themselves philosophy is no way to get that done. Continental philosophy cannot teach a body, only individuals. Continental philosophers do not so much deal with abstracts outside of their lives, fantasies, and experiences such as mathematics, or logic, but deal with progress that has been made in themselves, to put it crudely, and expand what progress can be made in their line of work by resorting to the only means they have available to them, being of course, communicating their insights in a clear, provocative, and original way.
As far as I can tell, to be honest, I think that in terms of being clear and trying to say something in a way that is new and helpful, and brings to light a new horizon not seen before, continental philosophy does more of that than analytic philosophy, or at least, their content aspires the need for such clarity more than the analytic realm.
Where continental philosophy must concern itself with being provocative in its communication, analytic philosophy does not really need to, or can. Anything provocative emerges from the work being done in it, as opposed to being built into it. Analytic philosophy draws its content from something that might be said to be progressing in a way that continental philosophy could not say of itself, as much anyways. Analytic philosophy draws its content not from experience or imaginations or what reality could be, but directly from abstracts and things which have some tangibility with reality whereby meanings are shared between the perceiver and reality itself.
Actually this might be wrong. I'm not sure how to word it. I mean to say, there is a difference between what continental philosophy and analytic philosophy deals with clarifying, or unraveling, or making clear.
- In all of the clarifying, unravelling, and making clear, there is a language which is undergoing such actions, and it is really all about examining that language in such above ways, and then communicating that language in a clearer language. The difference between analytic philosophy and continental in this regard is in the restrictions of communication between the languages.
- In analytic philosophy, you are clarifying, examining, unravelling something which is fixed in a way, and which could be called reality. The contents analytic philosophy draws from do not evolve, only the methods and languages in which the contents must be understood. In this way we have the idea that in analytic philosophy, there can be progression.
- In analytic philosophy, the languages and methods used to understand reality are (ex. mathematics, logic, etc) reducible, and translatable to one another without losing their clarity, or what they were trying to communicate relative to the reality one is examining. This is hard to explain, but I don't mean it in the sense that one will inevitably read this as. I mean to say that if any clarity is lost in translating from language to language, it is in the nature of these languages that any lost clarity will actually be known to be lost, and where. I mean to say that One employs a new method of communicating, not to increase clarity, but to bring about an actual ability to communicate that which one is trying to say about reality.
- In continental philosophy, languages such as art, writing, music are irreducible to one another. One cannot translate perfectly what has been communicated in a painting into words without at least losing some of its meaning, and its full clarity is only understood by the person who's work it is. These languages cannot -and are not meant to be- separated from all the psychological mechanisms and complexes of the mind which go about influencing how one communicates something in a language.
- Continental philosophy cannot rely upon where it draws its content from and where it applies its content to -for giving meaning and appreciation- being fixed. Analytic philosophy relies on reality being fixed, and its perspective and methods of communicating not. Analytic philosophy relies on a distinction between perspective and reality. Continental philosophy cannot bear that distinction, because it deals with matters where its content comes from a language which cannot be said to be fixed. One cannot just expand the methods available to communicate what is when there is a sudden change. In analytic philosophy if there is a sudden change that's all you have to do. A sudden change in reality is impossible, because of how analytic philosophy deals with problems. It is not reality that is changing, it is how we must describe it that changes. One expands his tools and wordplay, adds parameters, and new restrictions to keep reality fixed. That is how analytic philosophy gets its clarity, from the success in employing these parameters, and methods. And from this applications and technology can emerge, because one has successfully made something fixed, by describing it that way.
- Analytic philosophy clarifies that which seeks the approval of empirical data in its very method of communicating the insights it draws. An example of this is in mathematics.
- Continental philosophy is the same way, except it is not 'reality' which is being used. This philosophy uses things that are ineffable, sometimes, or even perhaps unapproachable in truth; ideals such as justice, truth, mercy, doing what is right, etc. These ideals once communicated cannot rely upon being fixed, because the communication into a language that can be expressed inter-subjectively is 1) never perfectly portraying what the true ideal is 2) unable to be conceived with perfect clarity from person to person 3) leaving out distinctions which are either ignored, psychologically made unknowable, too specific to be useful, or too specific to be syntactically recognized within the language, and 4) the language is always trying to express something that appears from our conscious perspective as reducing into what is irrational and intransitory at its very core, and expands from there into things transient that are too quick and escape the confines of a sturdy language.
- Something that can be said which encompasses both philosophies is that philosophy does not just concern itself with the truth, or the usefulness of what is, but it concerns itself, or is the tendency of philosophers anyways, to strive for an understanding of why this is the truth, or why this is useful. Perhaps this is not something which can be said of philosophy but of temperament. Philosophers have the urge to not only clarify and unravel what is into a form of knowledge, but communicate it in a language which for them provides an appreciation for the knowledge, because in the background there is always in their heads, "but it could be that way as opposed to this way".
And when the philosophical problem is real, and requires solution, the solution comes about through understanding the problem and dealing with it piecemeal, rather than trying to give a sweeping solution all at once.
I think that dealing with something piecemeal works for analytic philosophy, because of the nature of what analytical philosophy tends to deal with.
However, I don't understand why the distinction between piecemeal and not piecemeal is necessary.
Is it possible that the method of piecemeal vs. not piecemeal emerges as a result of its usefulness because of the nature of the problem considered, and not simply because of the will one has to employ it, wherein the assumption lies that such a method works for everything that is "real philosophy".