Here’s one way of thinking about progress in philosophy.
Having determined that progress in philosophy has been too slow, the leaders of the Galactic Philosophy Federation (GPF) take on the mission of improving it. Realizing that the earlier an intervention can be made, other things equal, the more progress is likely to result, they begin by considering changes that can be implemented immediately. Unfortunately, there are not many inspiring options. They then learn about a new invention, the “Passed to the Past” (P2P) device, which allows people in the present to send messages back in time. The past is earlier than the present, so, they figure, we could in principle have even more progress in philosophy if we changed something in the past.
Still in beta, P2P has certain limits. First, it can only send short messages—no more than around 600 characters (roughly the size of the previous paragraph). Second, the recent past is unavailable as a destination—messages have to be sent to a time prior to 1900. And third, it is very expensive. Still, they find it promising and decide to try to make it the case that there has been (and perhaps will continue to be) more progress in philosophy by sending messages back in time to earlier philosophers.
When it comes time to budget for this project, the GPF’s leaders find, alas, that they have enough money to fund only one message. Hopeful that one message could make a difference, they turn to the matter of settling on its content, recipient, and timing. For this, they ask you, the philosophers of the world, for suggestions:
“Given the aim of improving philosophy’s progress, what brief message would you send to which past philosopher?”
Keep in mind that the message must be around 600 characters or less, and that the message must be sent back to a year prior to 1900; if it matters, be specific about when in the philosopher’s life they should receive the message.
(The question is intentionally open-ended in a few ways, and “progress” is intentionally left unspecified.)
What’s your answer?