Wittgenstein and the Illusion of ‘Progress’: On Real Politics and Real Philosophy in a World of Technocracy

Read, Rupert (2016) Wittgenstein and the Illusion of ‘Progress’: On Real Politics and Real Philosophy in a World of Technocracy. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, 78. pp. 265-284. ISSN 1358-2461

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‘You can’t stop progress’, we are endlessly told. But what is meant by “progress”? What is “progress” toward? We are rarely told. Human flourishing? And a culture? That would be a good start – but rarely seems a criterion for ‘progress’. (In fact, survival would be a good start…) Rather, ‘progress’ is simply a process, that we are not allowed, apparently, to stop. Or rather: it would be futile to seek to stop it. So that we are seemingly-deliberately demoralised into giving up even trying. Questioning the myth of ‘progress’, and seeking to substitute for it the idea of real progress – progress which is actually assessed according to some independent not-purely-procedural criteria – is a vital thing to do, at this point in history. Literally: life, or at least civilisation, and thus culture, may depend on it. Once we overcome the myth of ‘progress’, we can clear the ground for a real politics that would jettison the absurd hubris of liberalism and of most ‘Leftism’. And would jettison the extreme Prometheanism and lack of precaution endemic to our current pseudo-democratic technocracy. The challenge is to do so in a way that does not fall into complete pessimism or into an endorsement of the untenable and unsavoury features of conservatism. The challenge, in other words, is to generate an ideology or philosophy for our time, that might yet save us, and ensure that we are worth saving. This paper is then a kind of reading of Wittgenstein’s crucial aphorism on this topic: ‘Our civilization is characterized by the word progress. Progress is its form rather than making progress being one of its features.’

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Wittgenstein
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2016 15:00
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 09:43
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/61235
DOI: 10.1017/S1358246116000321

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