I'm studying a branch of philosophy that is concerned with knowledge. I'm studying theory of knowledge(epistemology) and I want to use faith, reason, and memory as tools for carrying this investigation.

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    What is "a branch of philosophy that is considered with knowledge"? Epistemology? You can look at Is there such a thing as moral progress? and Progress on SEP for general ideas and good references. Questions for this site are expected to be more pointed.
    – Conifold
    Sep 10, 2020 at 19:32
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    Human progress in Heideggerian point of view "if human were actually in change of things, but he believed they are not. Being is change in Heideggerian point of view. Zimmerman, M., Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art, Indiana UP, 1990
    – user47436
    Sep 14, 2020 at 6:57
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    Progress, however, is mired in hubris. Slogan of Nietzsche and Heidegger
    – user47436
    Sep 14, 2020 at 7:01

4 Answers 4


Progress means: Movement to an improved or more developed state, or to a forward position.

From this definition we can easily understand that since there is movement, 'Progress' is a subset of 'Change'. That means, for 'Progress' there must always be a 'Change'.

And 'History' is (The study of or a record of) past events considered together, especially events of a particular period, country, or subject.

And 'Ethics' is the study of what is morally right and wrong, or a set of beliefs about what is morally right and wrong.

So we can conclude that "It is ethics, neither history nor natural sciences, that decides whether a change is progress or regress."

You know how some ruling political-party-leaders misinterpret 'history' and reckon the progress of their government even though there are tremendous failures. This is possible in the case of natural sciences also. The progress we may see in some areas of 'natural sciences' might be a regress in other areas of the same subject.

Natural sciences, when applying on nature, and if it demands another change, can we say that it is a progress in natural science? In my opinion, if a change demands another change, almost all changes in natural science are not progress.

Deciding change is never a difficult task. But when it comes to progress it becomes rather difficult. The changes in the tools make it more difficult. So, more precisely we can say that usually it is the tools of ethics that decide progress.

When there is a variation in the tools of ethics we sometimes say, "The progress in modern society is a regress for the individual." This shows that the tools have great importance in deciding progress. Also, a progress in the macro-level may not always be a progress in the micro-level. It may sometimes be a regress. I believe this statement is relevant in some subjects like history. I mean, if people have the same opinion (progress) in both cases (macro-level and micro-level), I can't deny the fact that it progress. Again, even though one level is stable, and there is progress in the other level, I won't deny the fact that it is progress in that particular area/field. Since I believe other arguments are useless for our daily purposes, I don't wish to split hairs for an analysis.

'Faith' is the belief in the truth of something that does not require any evidence and may not be provable by any empirical or rational means. 'Reason' is the faculty of the mind through which we can logically come to rational conclusions.

So we can confirm that this does not mean 'faith' and 'evidence' are always at loggerheads. (Though this is not about all faiths) That implies 'faith' and 'reason' may coincide at some extreme 'level'. But when somebody reaches there (realizes it) he would be beyond progress and change. Since there is no change there is no possibility for a regress also. So, this can imply, ULTIMATELY, true faith and/or reason takes a person beyond regress.

The terms related to ethics (right, wrong, belief etc) are related to memory also. I believe 'ethics' can erase all the big and small issues related to memory. Again, for 'rational conclusion' also good memory power is essential. So I think I can avoid the term 'memory' while dealing this issue.

You know that in some philosophies, different paths are designed for people of different temperaments. Though this may seem entirely different, there must be a union or Yoga even in these different temperaments. And this is not a new thing.

We can find that the same person who follows reason, keeping faith in his beloveds. Again, we have strong faith in the subject we love very much (it may be even logic) while we keep a distance (keeping 'reason') with the subjects we are not so familiar with. I mean, faith and reason is often seen in one single person.


For more details regarding faith and reason, see:





Unforgettable Covid-19-experiences might be still affecting 'faith' and 'reason' of some weak personalities (of both categories) as if some balancing/union is somewhere.

  • Very interesting ideas on the definition of change and progress. Thank you for your contribution.
    – Hinton Zsh
    Sep 11, 2020 at 13:24
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    David Hume studied about Moral Progress and Change. Moral Progress by a change of belief, by a will to change his own moral characteristics, by the government setting up rewards and punishment and by the progress of civilisation. See philpapers.org/rec/COHTNO-8
    – user47436
    Sep 14, 2020 at 7:37
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    See also Darvinian point of view of evolution a about change and progress philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/61619/…
    – user47436
    Sep 14, 2020 at 7:45
  • Can you talk about how memory might affect progress or change?
    – Hinton Zsh
    Sep 14, 2020 at 14:51
  • @HintonZsh: This is rather subjective. We can use the word 'memory' as the memory of an individual or of the whole society. In the case of the individual, we could give instances even in favour of 'loss of memory' as well as 'retention of memory'. I mean memory also play an important role in decision making. I believe ethics would handle memory also. ...... Sep 14, 2020 at 17:09

I would say that Change is a very broad word, but any change that happens produces information in a universal system which means that the system as a whole is progressing.

Progress in other hand is more appropriate in this because in a human society (cultural perspective) we could have destructive changes but not destructive progress.

When we say ethics inevitably we are limiting the analysis to a human behavior and its cultural aspects.

In human history any aspect that might come in conformation to an universal progress in line with cultural ethics are behaviors that avoid conflict and stimulate education and knowledge.


Regarding change:

Although change seems an exceptional behavior in nature, while statism is the rule, the fact is that change is permanent and statism is not even possible in nature. Change is the subjective perception of difference. It is perception that makes something static, whilst such is just an illusion. Seeing the same river as before (or the same person in the mirror as yesterday) is impossible, but perception makes it a fact. Natural objects change constantly whilst perception is tuned to provide static models for knowledge. In formal terms, thermodynamics describes change from two perspectives, microstatic and macrostatic. Although the microstates of a gas would change in one second, temperature remains the same, so it is said that there's no change at a macrostatic level. It could be said that macrostates correspond to perception while microstates to physical reality.

In synthesis, we must just accept that the notion of change is largely subjective, and depends on the perspective of the observer.

Change in scientific knowledge would also occur permanently, and science would never be static. Any conventional definition of change depends on a subjective definition on how to establish that change has occurred (even if the subject is the entire scientific community).

Regarding progress:

It should be clear that gathering knowledge (including scientific knowledge) has a purpose: increasing the survival probabilities. Knowledge helps survival. The better the knowledge is, the larger the survival probabilities are. That is quite evident for medicine or chemistry, but perhaps not for other formal disciplines, like mathematics. But a bit of analysis would always lead to the same result: knowledge serves to increase the probabilities of survival. Ergo, progress would be an objective assessment of a positive increase of the survival probability.

Progress cannot be assessed directly from knowledge (scientific or not). Any development should be assessed in the long term, in relation to our probabilities of survival. Remark that such assessment is in consequence extremely complex, because it should consider multiple variables that might influence the results in extremely complex environments. The case of vaccines is a really good example of a successful assessment of the causal link between its use and its effects. Mario Bunge and Judea Pearl, both wrote books about Causality, targeting in part a common problem: relating the usage of vaccines with an objective measurement in the increase of the survival probabilities. Such is a clear progress in medicine, because it can be measured with a scientifically valuable proof and correlated with an increase of survival probability, even if it is individual.


I agree with @SonOfThought's initial statement that,

Progress means: Movement to an improved or more developed state, or to a forward position.

From this definition we can easily understand that since there is movement, 'Progress' is a subset of 'Change'. That means, for 'Progress' there must always be a 'Change'.

To the extent that I believe 'progress' is a subset of 'change'. However, I think we can move further than he points out in understanding how to differentiate between the two within the realm of natural science, at least. And, perhaps, with respect to history as well.

I would restate the definitions of the terms in this way:

  • Change, at it's most broad, is (a) difference(s) in an object in two points in time.
  • Progress is change with respect to an end state.

So, change does not imply a specific end state whereas progress does.

The question then becomes a matter of identifying:

  1. Are there true propositions about end states.
  2. If 1, to what extent can we know those propositions.

PROGRESS IN NATURAL SCIENCES Within the natural sciences, the answer to 1 seems fairly obvious (although I'm willing to be dissuaded), the end state is a complete understanding of the external world. So, progress differs from other change within the real of the natural sciences to the extent that the change brings us closer to having a complete understanding of the external world.

Sticking with the natural sciences, with respect to the second question, we can propose a fairly weak stance that still enables us to identify progress.

That is: we may never know the propositions in their fullest, but we can reject claims to understanding the external world which fail to adequately explain said world.

In this case we can see progress in the natural sciences when we reject prior understandings of the external world for new understandings based on the new understanding fitting better with how the external world works. Often, this is found through that new understanding making better predictions about the external world, or making those predictions in a more elegant way (defined in many ways but including being simpler or compatiblizing subjects that were thought to be incompatible).

PROGRESS IN HISTORY History is a more opaque subject. I'm not sure whether you're asking how we make historical progress or how we make progress in our knowledge of history as a subject.

While the natural sciences attempt to understand the external world, History attempts to understand our selves within that world. Are we looking at progress in terms of technology, society, art?

Taking the second stance (you want to understand how we know we're making progress on History as a subject), at it's base it is ourselves within the world that History looks to understand. So, to a degree we can take a similar look at History as we do the natural sciences. To wit, we make progress on our understanding of History when we are able to reject prior assertions about historic facts or make discoveries that increase our understanding of our past (identifying what appear to be the ruins of Troy, moving it from simply myth to historical fiction, for example).

If you instead meant how do we make progress through history. Then we must look to the specific object of historic evolution. Within the sphere of many technologies, for example, we are attempting to get more output with less human energy input. The same is not true for the realm of art, though. Nor society, writ large.


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