The topic of my remarks is progress, but I should note at the outset that I have structured this article as something like a theme with variations, rather than a tightly interconnected, progressive argument. I am interested in problematizing how the concept of progress is deployed across a range of discussions. I start with the role of progress in my own field of critical social theory, and then move on to consider the idea of philosophical progress, and finally connect this idea to different visions of philosophical pluralism. So, in other words, I will be starting with the otherwise and then moving on to the philosophical.

First-generation critical theorists of the Frankfurt school, especially Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, were famously extremely skeptical of the idea of progress. In his ninth thesis on the philosophy of history, Benjamin depicts what we call progress as merely an ongoing catastrophe hurling wreckage...

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