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This makes it sound like a Foundationalist would think the following is a good argument for some belief P:. First, if P is a nonbasic belief, then by definition it does not justify itself. Only basic beliefs are said to be self-justifying. Second, it is misleading to say that even basic beliefs are self-justifying. Recall the cogito. The same goes for his other basic beliefs.

What justifies a basic belief, then, is a type of conscious mental episode which is not itself a belief. Descartes identifies clear and distinct rational insights as basic beliefs, and tries to build up his knowledge of the world from these. He hit some snags, to say the least.

Foundationalism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

But other philosophers have held that our sensory experience is a source of basic beliefs that can provide us with knowledge of the world without going through the circuitous route of proving the existence of God first. Consider the following potential beliefs, none of which are rational insights:. Suppose these beliefs are justified by our sensory experience. Could we be deceived or otherwise mistaken about any of them?

In general, we are deceived when things are not the way they appear or seem. However, if we are cautious, and merely report the sensations themselves, and the way things seem to us, then we will not be mistaken. Can these cautious statements serve as a foundation for our knowledge of the world? We will simplify and treat Berkeley as a Phenomenalist. Either we must know it by sense or by reason. As for our senses, by them we have the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things that are immediately perceived by sense, call them what you will: but they do not inform us that things exist without the mind, or unperceived, like to those which are perceived.

This the materialists themselves acknowledge. It remains therefore that if we have any knowledge at all of external things, it must be by reason, inferring their existence from what is immediately perceived by sense. But what reason can induce us to believe the existence of bodies without the mind, from what we perceive, since the very patrons of Matter themselves do not pretend there is any necessary connexion betwixt them and our ideas?

In short, if there were external bodies, it is impossible we should ever come to know it; and if there were not, we might have the very same reasons to think there were that we have now. We are aware of our own ideas— our own experiences, the way things seem to us. We are not aware of the existence of a material world, and we have no evidence that it exists. Hence, we should not believe in the material world. Phenomenalism is not Skepticism, nor does it imply that most of our beliefs are mistaken.

A little reflection on what is here said will make it manifest that the common use of language would receive no manner of alteration or disturbance from the admission of our tenets. Phenomenalism is an attempt to validate our claims to knowledge about the world by giving them a solid foundation. So, objects such as trees and books and people do exist. But they are not material objects. Rachels explains the phenomenalist approach on page :. Consider these together with all the tree-experiences that other people have had.

A similar analysis, of course, can be given of any other physical object. What is it about the world that makes it true that we would have certain sensations under certain conditions? Whatever one thinks about regresses in general, the principles that generate this regress must be denied, for they lead to contradiction. The theory of Forms, as presented here at least, tells us i that when some things are a certain way, they participate in a single Form, in virtue of which they are that way; ii that Forms self-predicate—Forms themselves are the way that things that participate in them are; and iii that the Form is distinct from the things that participate in it.

So i — iii generate a regress, and they are each needed to do so. But i — iii are inconsistent, and no regress argument is needed to show that. But nothing is distinct from itself: contradiction. Now, that the theory is contradictory and that it leads to an intuitively worrying infinite regress are not unrelated.

But why do we have a new Form? So the regress and the contradiction are intimately related. Sometimes, the theoretical vice in question will be a global one: a feature that is a reason to reject any theory that has it. Yielding a contradiction is, relatively uncontroversially [ 3 ] , such a vice. For example, a theory might result in an infinite regress of entities and, as a result, entail that there are infinitely many things.

This in itself is, arguably, not objectionable. But it might be a local vice to a theory if we have independent reason to think that we are dealing with a finite domain. See Nolan , — Some philosophers object to the very idea of reality containing infinities. Aristotle, e. See Mendel But we will ignore such general anti-infinitism in this entry, for it is infinity itself that such theorists take to be objectionable, not infinite regresses per se.

This yields an infinite regress. Zero has a successor. One must have a successor. It cannot be zero, as before, nor can it be one itself, since then zero and one would have the same successor and hence be identical, and we have already said they must be distinct. So there must be a new natural number that is the successor of one: two.


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Two must have a successor: three. And so on … And this infinite regress entails that there are infinitely many things of a certain kind: natural numbers. But few have found this worrying. After all, there is no independent reason to think that the domain of natural numbers is finite—quite the opposite. This yields an infinite regress, at least from the assumption that there is at least one event.

This event is preceded by its cause. And so on …. This regress of events is very similar to the regress of natural numbers. In each case we start from the claim that there is a thing of a certain kind a number or an event , and we have a principle that tells us that for each thing of that kind, there is another thing of that very kind that bears a certain relation to the previous one it is its successor, or it is its preceding cause. We then have supplementary principles that rule out the other thing of that kind being any of the things on our list so far, thus forcing us to introduce a new thing of that kind, thus inviting the application of the principles to this new thing, and so on ad infinitum.

But while the regress and resulting infinity of natural numbers is arguably unobjectionable, the regress of events seems problematic, because we have good empirical reasons to deny that there are infinitely many events, each preceded by another. For either that infinite sequence of events takes place in a finite amount of time or an infinite one. We have good empirical reason to rule out the latter option, since we have good empirical reason to think that there has only been a finite amount of past time: that time started a finite time ago with the Big Bang.

And we have good empirical reason to rule out the former option, since the only way of fitting an infinite series of events, each preceded by another, into a finite stretch of time is by having the time between them become arbitrarily small. But this requires the time between events to become arbitrarily small, and there is some reason to think that time is quantized, such that there is a minimum length of time during which a change can occur, thus providing a lower limit on the amount of time that can separate two temporally distant events.

See Nolan b for relevant discussion and further references. In the previous section we saw two theories generating similar regresses, but where one is found unobjectionable whereas the other is found objectionable due to the different things we think we know, independently of encountering these regress arguments, about the subject matter of the theories.

We could also have cases where a single theory yields a regress that is objectionable by the lights of one theorist and not another, as a result of their differing theoretical commitments leading one but not the other to think that a feature revealed by the regress is a vice. Bradley [], 21— Note, however, that Bradley is very hard to interpret, and there is much debate concerning how to reconstruct his argument. Since before we posited a property corresponding to the monadic predicate and said that the property was bound to the object that was the subject of predication, we should follow suit here and posit a relation corresponding to the dyadic predicate and say that it is bound to the two things that are the subjects of that predication.

Each predicational fact tells us that some particulars, properties, and relations are bound together, which forces us to posit a relation corresponding to that binding, which generates the next predicational fact, and so on ad infinitum. Is this regress objectionable? Arguably it depends on what we want from an account of predication. If what you want is an analysis of predication, then arguably this regress is objectionable. We would have one ontological underpinning for the infinitely many true predications. Armstrong and —8. So whether or not we will find this regress objectionable depends on what we demand of an account of predication.

We can all agree that the regress shows that the account does not yield an analysis of predication. Is this a theoretical vice? It depends on whether or not predication requires an analysis, and that depends on our theoretical goals.

Circular arguments

The A-series of time is the sequence of times one of which is present, others past, and others future. As opposed to the B-series, which merely says that some times are before others, some after others, etc. But, says McTaggart, the times that are past, were present; the time that is present was future and will be past; the times that are future will be present and will be past.

McTaggart concludes that we end up attributing each A-property is present, is past, and is future to every time and therefore to every event in time. But this is absurd, because the A-properties are incompatible: to have one is to have neither of the others. So we end up in contradiction: each time both has only one such property, and all such properties. McTaggart concludes that the A-series cannot be real. That is: no time and event has more than one of the A-properties, it is merely the case that they have one A-property and did and will have another.

But McTaggart thinks this response does not solve the problem, because it leads to regress. He says ibid. If we avoid the incompatibility of the three characteristics by asserting that M is present, has been future, and will be past, we are constructing a second A series, within which the first falls, in the same way in which events fall within the first… the second A series will suffer from the same difficulty as the first, which can only be removed by placing it inside a third A series.

The same principle will place the third inside a fourth, and so on without end. You can never get rid of the contradiction, for, by the act of removing it from what is to be explained, you produce it over again in the explanation. And so the explanation is invalid. See Dummett and Mellor 72—74 for two among many presentations of the argument along similar lines.

See Cameron Ch. But that is puzzling, given that things change and, hence, the way things were is incompatible with the way things are now. How can they both contribute to the way reality is if they are incompatible? The defender of the A-series replies by insisting that in giving the complete account of how reality is we have to take seriously the fact that reality changes and that it is, therefore, different ways successively , and there is no inconsistency in things being one way and then another, incompatible, way. McTaggart responds by restating this response in terms of second-order A-properties.

And McTaggart will respond that this is to invoke third-order A-properties—being present past past , being past future future , etc. And the same problem will arise, and invite the same response, which will lead to the same problem concerning fourth-order A-properties, which will invite the same response again … and so on, ad infinitum. Some philosophers see the regress as demonstrating that any attempt to describe the world in A-theoretic terms is ultimately inconsistent, and see the A-theorist as merely invoking another inconsistent account of reality every time they attempt to explain away this inconsistency.

At every stage, they say, we can remove the apparent contradiction by distinguishing the times at which the events have incompatible [A-properties]. They ignore the fact that the way they distinguish these times … only generates more contradictions. Skow , 87 , e. And even an infinite sequence of false allegations does not add up to a good argument. If one starts out happy with the notion of succession —i. We start out with a set of incompatible properties that are never had by anything simultaneously but are held by things successively; in stating that those properties are had successively we make salient a new set of incompatible properties, but these are also never had by anything simultaneously, only successively; this makes salient yet another set of incompatible properties, and so on ad infinitum.

There is never, at any stage, a contradiction, if the notion of succession is indeed in good standing, for we are never forced to say that a thing has incompatible properties, only that a thing successively has properties that cannot be had simultaneously. The regress, then, looks vicious or benign depending on whether one is content to grant the legitimacy of the notion of temporal succession. In section 1 we looked at cases where an infinite regress is taken to reveal some feature that might, possibly depending on your other theoretical commitments, be taken to reveal a feature of a theory independent of its leading to regress that is a reason to reject it.

But sometimes the regress itself is taken to be an objectionable feature of the theory that yields it. If this infinite regress argument is successful then our choices are either:. Infinite regress arguments used to motivate Foundationalism or Coherentism appear in many different areas of philosophy. Here are some highlights:. Metaphysicians have wanted to account for the very existence, or nature, of some things by appealing to things on which they ontologically depend: for example, a complex object exists and is the way it is because its parts exist and are the way they are; a set exists because its members exist; etc.

See Fine and Koslicki for discussion. But of course the things the dependent beings depend on must themselves exist as well. Some have been suspicious of the idea that this can go on ad infinitum , with every thing being ontologically dependent on some new thing s , and thus have argued for Metaphysical Foundationalism: the view that there is a collection of absolutely fundamental [ 4 ] entities upon which all else ultimately ontologically depends.

Aquinas, e. We shall see more examples of Metaphysical Foundationalists below. See also the supplementary document on. Metaphysical Coherentism—the view that ontological dependence could be a holistic phenomenon—has received few defenders, but see Barnes , Nolan , Priest Chs. Epistemologists want to account for the justification of our beliefs. We do not want to believe at random, we want our beliefs to be justified —that is, we want there to be a reason to believe the propositions we believe. But those reasons will be further propositions, and if our initial belief is to be justified, so surely must the reasons for that belief be, and so we must appeal to yet more propositions, and so on.

Many—going back to Sextus Empiricus Outlines of Pyrrhonism PH I, —9 —have thought that this cannot proceed ad infinitum , and that the only serious options are Epistemic Foundationalism—the view that there is a class of propositions whose justification does not come via some other justified propositions, and that can provide a reason for everything else we believe—or Epistemic Coherentism—the view that a collection of propositions can collectively be justified in virtue of the web of epistemic relations they stand in to one another.

As well as asking about the source of justification for our moral beliefs see e.


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Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, a thought that some things were good because we desire them for the sake of something else that is good. And so Aristotle argues that there must be a Highest Good—something that is desired for its own sake—that other things can be good in virtue of aiming towards this highest good. Aristotle is a Moral Foundationalist: there is something whose goodness does not get explained by reference to anything else, by means of which the goodness of other things is accounted for.

Explicit statements of anything other than Foundationalism in the moral case are hard to come by. It is appropriate that God is the exception to the generally accepted rule of causation. That's the purpose of the construction of the notion of God. The first part of your statement, "impossibility of regress," is false. Although there might be regressions that are impossible, there is at least one that is possible. The one that is possible, is the one that depends on is a function of time. If you regress to the point where time does not exist stops, ends, etc.

If the first part were true, that in itself would "be God," because it could be used to prove that anything therefore everything exists! Positing a First Cause of any kind causes insurmountable logical problems. The only way around these problems is to adopt the traditional idea of a 'causeless cause'.

This refers to the idea of our Origin being causal simply by being what it is, such that there is no original causal action or intention. The idea is far too subtle to explain here and it takes some pondering to grok it. We see this idea in Lao Tsu when he explains the laws of heaven and Earth as following ineluctably 'Tao being what it is' and if you read around Zen you'll find widespread mention of this 'causeless cause'.

The moment we say there was an original cause we are in trouble but a causeless cause once carefully defined makes sense and allows us to escape from the usual problems. So even with a very loosely defined 'God' as a First Cause the problem is not solved. The problem is with the idea of a First Cause, not with who or what we assign it to. In string theory they posit the big bang as a collision between surfaces in a multidimensional space.

It seems if there is the possibility of a static timeless reality, external to this one but able to have caused it, there could be such a first cause. How to think about a time before time is tricky though. Buddhist thought simply accepts infinite beings, in infinite realms, for a infinite time.

The Epistemic Regress Problem - Epistemology - WIRELESS PHILOSOPHY

This may be pointing to the idea that causation itself is a state of mind, an unawakened state, and that as long as a previous causevs searched for the next previous link in the chain can be found, but that only gives us the truth of the lack of any inherent nature, that everything we ordinarily experience is conditioned and dependent. We know we are here at this point in space-time. The law of Causation is used to explain how we got here, receding as far back in time to The Big Bang. The expanse of time from the start of The Big Bang up to this moment now; though lengthy 13 billion years , is a finite amount of time.

In hyperspace and hyper-time this entity could be the reason the Big Bang happened. Being in hyper-space-time this entity would appear infinite from our perspectives. We need an ultimate-un-contingent-hyper-necessity. Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site the association bonus does not count.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead? Sign up to join this community. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top. Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. Does the impossibility of an infinite regress prove God exists? Ask Question. Asked 3 years, 8 months ago.

Active 1 year, 2 months ago. Viewed 17k times. My argument supporting the impossibility of an infinite regress is as follows: An infinite regress proposes an explanation, but the mechanism proposed stands just as much in need of explanation as the original fact to be explained. It is equivalent to saying: "Each and every single human being was created by a human being before them" According to this logic there can be no "first" human or even an origin for the species.

The same logic is used in some of the Upanishads. You've discovered something thousands of years old. SwamiVishwananda I am not interested in being the "first" to discover anything. I am interested if a First Cause can logically be proven. Insightful, though. Do some of these texts prove this? Logically Speaking. The argument is not convincing at all.

For starters, why can't there be an infinite regress? AdamRubinson Please elaborate. Some questions are syntactically well-formed but symantically void. This is one. The only philosophically valid answer to it is "mu". In this version of the model, our big bang is just one of infinitely many big bangs which have occurred and will continue to occur and "our" timeline can be considered to extend back for an eternity. This is not saying anything else than that it is impossible for everything to have a cause if we don't allow for infinite regress or circularity.

How is that not obvious? Kant did argue in the thesis of the third antinomy of pure reason in his Critique of Pure Reason that all that is needed for solving infinite regress is pure spontaneity , in his terms transcendental freedom. A causeless cause that can neither be personalized or objectified nor even be explained by any means and therefore never understood.

Regress Argument Reconstruction

What you are asking for is seemingly understanding. Kant argued for the standpoint that this is one of the boundings of our understanding that cannot be transcended by any means. By the way one of the explanations for a first big bang is a spontanious quantum inequality that cannot be further explained. I think the similarities are quite obvious.

If the universe is infinite, it fits the definition of what is being described here, albeit Only if it is infact infinite. Jo Wehler Jo Wehler Jeff Y Would you like to convert your smart comment to a separate question? JoWehler Great answer. Doesn't this mean we will never have an answer though? Because no amount of science or knowledge will explain how to make a square circle. So it is impossible to find an alternative answer to this question, there either is a first cause or there isn't.

In mathematics you can use other norms than the Euclidean norm to measure distance. And if you do it "right", you will get a square circle. Moritz Of course you can change the norm. But that's not meant when stating that a squared circle is a contradiction.

This statement refers to the Euclidean norm. I've added a bit more about why an infinite regress seems impossible. An argument is more than a statement -- you need to make your point believable. I thought it was well accepted that an infinite regress was impossible. I'll work on creating a better argument for this. Phenomenon X needs to be explained. Reason Y is given. Reason Y depends on phenomenon X. Infinite regress is false.

Is the Regress Argument self-defeating?

That it is a logical fallacy does not mean X or Y is not true. It only means it's not a convincing argument. OK, I'm going to have a go at this. An argument can go 3 ways: A circular path. Infinite regress. Circular arguments These are outright nonsense. A thing cannot prove itself. Oil floats on water because oil floats on water.

The premises are right, but the argument is nonsense. Compare with: Oil sinks in water because oil sinks in water. Try to stop that regression train. Notwithstanding, lets play along - lets just assume that infinite regress is nonsense. Stop condition A stop condition can be many things. An axiom or justified belief, for example.

Now stop conditions are not evil. In fact, they are highly practical. Consider this: The amputated limb of a human will not regrow. The skeptics will surely have their say on this, but this is manageable alright. The commutative low for addition is another axiom that serves us right. Let's put this to the test: There is at least one day a year where not a single person on this planet is having sex. OK, we have a stop condition, it's even god itself. But is the argument valid? Is it reasonable? Now consider this argument: Given that circular reasoning and infinite regress is nonsense, there must be a stop condition.

Now you argue: Given that infinite regress is nonsense, god must exist. If this argument is valid, so is this: Given that infinite regress is nonsense, love is red. You have asserted that: God is only the first cause. And so one might argue: A love that is red is only the first cause. Imagine I walk in the street and this girl walks to me and say: Hey, god exists. And I go, really? And then she goes: Yes, but its not the god you think of, it just another label for the first cause. It's 3AM, so I'm unsure how much sense this makes.

Probably not much. But I hope this helps.