If there IS philosophical progress, is it worthwhile to read philosophy that was written before you were born? Isn't the most current understanding of philosophy the most valid? For example, we now know Newtonian physics is false at the quantum level; wouldn't it stand to reason that after two hundred years Kant's moral philosophy has been refined or superceded and should not be followed in its entirety? If there is NOT any philosophical progress and philosophical questions are inherently unresolvable, then is the entire field of philosophy futile? If philosophers can't even agree on what the aims of philosophy are, then does that mean Marx's philosophy is as equally valid for people to follow as that of Aristotle's?

The question of whether philosophy progress - and, if it does, what sort of progress this might be - is itself a philosophical question, and there are at least two good answers to it. The first is that there is a rather straightforward sense in which philosophy does progress: namely that bad arguments are weeded out and new ideas and arguments and ways of thinking are added - and this is the sort of progress that we see in science and other disciplines, too. The second answer is that philosophy progresses in the sense that it continues to fulfil one of its central: to enable critical reflection on the ideas and activities and concerns that shape and guide human life - helping us to articulate contemporary worries, say, or to identify alternatives to current ways of thinking that, for whatever reason, are no longer fit for purpose. This is a different sense of progress, but there's no reason to insist that philosophy must use the same conception of progress as science! Wittgenstein once said...

Are answers to philosophical questions always distinct from sociological questions? How much should the two fields inform one another or at all? It seems particularly when it comes to ethics, many people give philosophical answers to sociological questions and vice versa. For example, suppose a legislature attempts to censor certain very violent forms of pornography after several studies and interviews with criminals confirm that its proliferation causes more sex crimes in society. This seems like a proposed sociological solution. But if a group of political, legal, and moral philosophers in academia object, claiming that producing and watching violent pornography is not immoral, regardless if does lead to more sex crimes (since it is done with the personal autonomy of performers and viewers), how should the public balance the two differing arguments?

One might say that sociology asks what people think and why they think it - for instance how social factors affect their attitudes, ideas, and values and so on - while philosophy is more concerned with (firstly) identifying which attitudes, ideas, and values are defensible (in the sense that good reasons and arguments can be given for them) and (secondly) critically assessing the reasons that people in fact have. After all many of our ideas and values are the results of custom and habit rather than reflection and deliberation, and this can cause problems - as both Socrates and the Buddha recognised long ago - but the question of which discipline (law, sociology, philosophy, etc.) has authority here is a tricky one. Socrates found that society does not always welcome philosophical criticism, though the Buddha fared slightly better through his gentler, less intrusive style of philosophising!