General ruminations on the state and future of philosophy often produce superficiality and intellectual self-indulgence. Furthermore, an arbitrary blip on the calendar, the beginning of a new century, would not seem sufficient, by itself, to override a general presumption against engaging in such ruminations. However, I am going to take the risk of saying some things about the current and future state of philosophy, even though I think it is a serious risk. A number of important overall changes in the subject have occurred in my lifetime and I want to discuss their significance and the possibilities they raise for the future of the subject.
PHILOSOPHY AND KNOWLEDGE
The central intellectual fact of the present era is that knowledge grows. It grows daily and cumulatively. We know more than our grandparents did; our children will know more than we do.
We now have a huge accumulation of knowledge which is certain, objective, and universal, in a sense of these words that I will shortly explain. This growth of knowledge is quietly producing a transformation of philosophy.
The modern era in philosophy, begun by Descartes, Bacon, and others in the seventeenth century, was based on a premise which has now become obsolete. The premise was that the very existence of knowledge was in question and that therefore the main task of the philosopher was to cope with the problem of skepticism.