This article argues that Dewey has a “progressive historicist” theory of ethics and social philosophy. That theory is here explicated with the notion of an “evaluative framework,” which can be embodied both implicitly in practice and in explicit theories and judgments. Such historicism, in which each stage has overcome the deficiencies of the previous stage, has ample resources to avoid unconstrained relativism, in terms of three aspects: the “dynamic,” the “dialogic,” and the “historical.” The article poses, however, a challenge for such “progressive historicisms”: while there are determinate oughts within each stage of history before the inadequacies of that stage have come to the fore, it is indeterminate what one ought to do during the intermediate phases once such inadequacies have come to one's knowledge and before a new solution has been generally socially accepted and habitualized. The last subsection briefly outlines various responses historicism might give.

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