Infinite-regress

Doublethink

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable — what then?”

George Orwell, “Nineteen Eighty-Four

Those who claim for themselves to judge the truth are bound to possess a criterion of truth. This criterion, then, either is without a judge’s approval or has been approved. But if it is without approval, whence comes it that it is truthworthy? For no matter of dispute is to be trusted without judging. And, if it has been approved, that which approves it, in turn, either has been approved or has not been approved, and so on ad infinitum.


— Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, trans. R.G. Bury, Loeb edn, W. Heinemann, London, 1935 p. 179

The problem of infinite regress is one of two things-

1. Firstly- one of the most profound and challenging problems in human thought. An infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of another proposition P2, the truth of proposition P2 requires the support of proposition P3, … , and the truth of proposition Pn-1 requires the support of proposition Pn and n approaches infinity. This problem challenges the fundamentals of how we claim to know things. 

For example-

This is a computer.

How do you know that?

It looks, sounds, feels and acts like one.

How do you know that?

Because I can tell through my senses.

How do you know your senses are reliable?

Because they don’t deceive me.

How do you know they’re not deceiving you?

Because I know they aren’t…

How do you know that?


And so on, and so forth. At the end of the day, nothing is ever completely justified.


2. It’s also a tactic used by children to question the authority of adults when they’re asserting something. 

Why do I have to put my wellies on?

Because your feet will get wet.

Why?

Because it’s been raining and the floor is wet.

Why?

Because its been raining…

Why?

Because uh water vapor in clouds condensates at certain atmospheric pressures and/or temperatures and falls due to gravity?

Why?

Because the laws of physics say so.

Why?

And with the sceptic or the child, it’ll always boil down to this one response.

Because I say so.

Human knowledge in its fundamentals ends up boiling down to “I just know.” And as such all our knowledge lacks a rational foundation. 
And hence why Scepitcal trolls can undermine the entire realm of human thought. TROLL.  

I just unintentionally revised, yay. 

Turtles All the Way Down

A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the turtle standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

“Turtles all the way down” is a jocular expression of the Infinite Regress problem in cosmology posed by the “Unmoved Mover” paradox. A comparable metaphor describing the cause and consequence problem as a cycle is the “Chicken and Egg” problem. In epistemology the problem is known as the Münchhausen Trilemma.

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Radare - Morast

Aesthetics

The ancient Greek skeptics conceived the theory that no knowledge could be affirmed, in the case of Pyhrronian skepticism not even the statement that no knowledge could be affirmed could be known. This extends to the matter that data gathered by sense is flawed in that we do not know whether we are truly observing an object in it’s true form and if our senses are conveying to us the right information. Furthermore things become more convoluted because of language and definitions. Can we truly define aesthetics without continuing on an infinite regress in definitions? Also is that to stop the infinite regress of definitions one must allude to sense data in order to get the notion of something like aesthetics across. So with unclear notions and ever changing definitions of what aesthetics is, what right does any individual have to conclude what it is indubitably? Who are we to say what is beautiful or what is pleasing, we cannot possibly perceive what true aesthetics are with our flawed notions of pleasure and beauty. So who is to tell you that anything in the world is displeasing when we cannot possibly know indefinitely what is?

the infinite regress problem

born from a shell on the sand
he is primordially simple,
alone of his kind for a hundred miles

from the deck I will my stomach to calm by picking an arbitrary point on the horizon
the straight wet line that separates our two worlds, and I balance
hovering, rocking above the placid and deceptively regular surface

the turtle lives the same semi-nomad life
as his ancestors billions of years ago
warming his blood in the sunny shallows

it’s appropriate I guess that I enter the world nearly naked because I feel so stripped to the bone when I do
on the deck, I am gangly and stumbling, cold and awkward—but when I lower myself off the side
I become pure human, tight-skinned water monkey, bobbing at the edge of this world

he rises to the surface and plunges back down
gliding above coral, his ancient eye meets my
front-facing hunters’ pupils, fearless

sand and water eventually eat everything—
paint, metal, clay, fish, turtles, vomit, people—
everything rusting in the sunny water