Q. What progress has been made in philosophy over the past 3000 years?
Popular opinion has it that philosophical questions are unanswerable, that every argument has a counter-argument, and that we never make any progress in philosophy. If true, that would be kinda depressing. (Not entirely so, as we might find value in the philosophical 'journey' even if it has no 'destination'. But it would be nice if the endeavour actually led somewhere.)
But is this pessimistic view true? My general impression is that it is not, though I'm having trouble pinning down any philosophical issues that have been conclusively settled. If there are any, it would be really handy to have a list of them ready for the next time someone makes that stock complaint against philosophy. So, if you can think of any good examples of progress in philosophy, please let me know!
There are a few different ways 'progress' might be understood. Most obviously, we make progress by conclusively answering a fundamental question. I guess this type of progress is fairly rare in philosophy, but it's also the most satisfying so I'd love to hear any examples of it. Perhaps Gettier conclusively refuted the JTB analysis of knowledge. Did Quine destroy the analytic-synthetic distinction? (I'm not so sure about that one, but that might just be ignorance on my part.) I guess we could fall back on logic, with Godel's theorems and the like, though mathematicians might dispute our claim to the field.
Perhaps a more common sort of progress in philosophy involves exploring the consequences of adopting particular principles. This yields conditional rather than categorical answers: "if theory X is true, then Y and Z follow" - that sort of thing. That's certainly progress of a sort that philosophy is well capable of, and I think it quite valuable too.
Then we have the progress of philosophical 'fashions' or fads, e.g. when we lose interest in a particular set of questions and so move on to other topics instead. A related, but more substantive, form of progress would be the rejection of an old framework. For example, Rorty claims (I think) that many traditional problems in philosophy can be eliminated (rather than solved) by adopting new vocabularies and methods of discourse. Or something like that.
Lastly, we have the introduction of new problems or ways of thinking. This might be the most important form of philosophical progress. Examples are endless: 4-dimensionalism about time, coherentism and contextualism about knowledge, utilitarianism, the revival of virtue ethics, possible worlds metaphysics and modal logic, etc.
So, if someone asked you the question at the top of this post, how would you reply?