Idea of Progress
History of the idea
Throughout history, most philosophers did not believe in any idea of progress, although some took various positions which mirrored aspects of the theory. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle – who believed in a cyclical view of history – as well as the Christian philosopher Augustine – who believed in a linear view of history – held such positions despite never believing the theory.
The formation of the Idea of Progress began during the Enlightenment Era, during the 1700s, through the seeds of this theory could be seen in philosophical writings from the 1600s. These philosophers were inspired by the achievements of the Scientific Revolution and believed that the progress seen in scientific advancements could be applied in other fields such as the social or moral realm. These philosophers, unsurprisingly, took an optimistic and positive view of humanity. The idea of progress was promoted by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, and John Stuart Mill.
Events in the 20th century, such as World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, and the development of nuclear weapons, shook the belief in the idea of progress, leading many philosophers to either moderate their support for or to reject the Idea of Progress.