The Enemy of the Good. Towards a Theory of Moral Progress

The Progress Talks

An online forum for debate on moral progress research

Societies change over time. Democracy has become increasingly widespread, gay rights have become established in some countries, and the environmental movement continues to gain momentum. Do these changes count as moral progress? Is there such a thing? If so, how should we conceptualize it? What are the criteria for measuring moral progress? And what are the main dynamics driving it and the factors blocking it?

These questions receive increasing attention from philosophers, psychologists, biologists and sociologists. THE PROGRESS TALKS is an online forum where ongoing research on moral progress is debated.

Format: ‘Talk and Q&A’ or ‘Research colloquium’ (up to the invited researcher). ‘Talk and Q&A’ sessions consist of a 30-60 min presentation, followed by 15-30 min Q&A. During ‘Research colloquium’ sessions, we will discuss work in progress with our invited researcher. ‘Research colloquium’ meetings are pre-read. Drafts will be uploaded to this website; we will aim to distribute drafts at least one week in advance of each ‘Research colloquium’ meeting.

Location: Online (MS Teams)

Registration: If any of talks in this series (below) sound interesting to you, you can register here (free of charge, of course).




Nov 10,
20-21 (CET)

Universality, Necessity, and Progress: Marx and the Problem of History

Amy Allen (Pennsylvania State University)
Talk and Q&A

In response to postcolonial critiques of the Eurocentrism of Marx’s theory of history, a new wave of scholarship has questioned whether Marx held on to this theory in his late work. Scholars have argued that in Marx’s late journalistic and ethnographic writings, his teleological and stadial theory of universal history gives way to a multilinear and non-Eurocentric view. In this talk, I argue that the theory of history that is employed in Marx’s early work has three distinct components: universality, necessity, and progress. Although all three of these elements are combined in Marx’s early work, they can be disaggregated, and, importantly, rejecting one of them doesn’t necessarily entail rejecting the other two. In Marx’s late work, in fact, what we find is a multilinear view of the history that nevertheless remains committed to claims about historical necessity and progress.


Buchanan, Allen, and Alexander Motchoulski. 2022. “Revolution, Ideology, and Moral Progress.” September 15. [Abstract]

Lowe, Dan. 2022. “Ideology Critique and the Abolition of Slavery in the United States.” May 5. [Abstract]

Kumar, Victor. 2022. “Quarantined in an Echo Chamber.” April 7. [Abstract]

Kitcher, Philip. 2022. “A method for moral progress.” March 10. [Abstract]

Hermann, Julia. 2021. “Moral Progress through Disruption? The Role of (Socially Disruptive) Technologies for Progressive Moral Change.” December 9. [Abstract]