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).




March 9,
15-16 (CET)
(new date tba)

From is to ought and back: Variability and asymmetry in social inferences from norm information

Cristina Bicchieri (University of Pennsylvania)
Talk and Q&A


May 11,
15-16:30 (CET)

Moral Revolutions, Value Change and the Question of Moral Progress

Joel Robbins (Cambridge University)
Research Colloquium

Philosophers have recently turned to Kuhn’s account of scientific revolutions to develop models of radical moral change. Looking at the work of Appiah, Baker, and Pleasants, I argue that this can be a productive approach to issues of moral transformation, but I also suggest that the examples of moral revolution the provide are better understood as cases of “normal” moral change in Kuhn’s sense and that this is why they are so easily defined as cases of moral progress. I develop a model of moral revolution defined by changes in high level values, and illustrate this with fieldwork on a moral revolution in Papua New Guinea. In conclusion, I suggest that in cases of such value change, moral progress is harder to define.


Anderson, Elizabeth. 2023. “Pragmatism and Moral Progress.” February 9. [Abstract]

Danaher, John and Jeroen Hopster. 2022. “The Normative Significance of Future Moral Revolutions.” December 9. [Abstract]

Allen, Amy. 2022. “Universality, Necessity, and Progress: Marx and the Problem of History.” November 10. [Abstract]

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]