I can't understand the reasoning in these sentences: "The worry that disagreement within philosophy entails a lack of progress assumes that agreement is a necessary condition for progress. But once we recognize that there’s no relationship between philosophical agreement and truth, there will be less motivation to hang onto the idea that agreement is necessary for progress." Pessimists say that agreement is a necessary condition for progress, not a sufficient one. Of course these pessimists also believe that another necessary condition is that agreement in a discipline must be an indicator for truth. Now Smith is arguing that since philosophy will never meet the second necessary condition, we should give up on the first condition too. Of course there may be independent reasons for not regarding agreement as a necessary condition for progress. But the fact that the pessimists' second necessary condition for progress will never be met by the discipline of philosophy only shows that the pessimists need not worry about philosophers one day agreeing with each other and hence refute the pessimists' conclusion, since even then their conclusion will not be refuted by the emergence of consensus among philosophers.

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A great piece. Julia quotes from my Aeon article: 'consensus in a given field can be one indicator of how much progress has been achieved.' This was a logically weaker claim than Julia's subsequent statement: 'agreement within a discipline is a sign of progress, whereas disagreement indicates a lack of it'. Why did I use the qualifier 'can'? Partly because of the role of group-think, fashion or a charismatic philosopher (cf. Wittgenstein) in shaping and controlling opinion. But partly also because, to take a parallel case, I don't think that near consensus in science about the unobservable world provides a strong case for scientific realism and against the likes of van Fraassen. So I hope that my Aeon article is congenial to the original and very interesting view Julia's presented here. Chris

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We are apes at our limits,

and we circle the thickets

of our own making…

---staking claims in the sticks…

thus we're storied into heroes bushwhacked by worry,

take care of that heart of yours.

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