In a philosophy class, particularly in Epistemology, the professors seem to have the assumption that to conceive the concept of anything at all, including even this very sentence, require us to have assumptions. Some really extreme teachers go so far as to say that even the idea of having no assumptions requires certain primitive concepts in order to form the concept.

  • Why does it seem like all philosophers advocate for knowledge being meaningless and of its being an infinite regress of justification?

  • Why must we have frameworks or assumptions, and if we really take that approach, don't we need to assume the concept of "assumption" and the concept of "concept" as well?

For instance, I challenge anyone to try to actually define the logical operator NOT or IS. I highly doubt that you can do it without simply saying "it is just what it is" and "I know it for some reason".

It sounds very problematic, indeed. It seems we have no real foundations and yet we can't even state this without having some foundational concepts!

Is it a paradox?

  • It's less that most take the regress to be infinite, and more that we take some of it to be "circular," kind of like a dictionary. But see also about the myth of the given and the theory-ladenness of observation. If you think that philosophers haven't found ways to analyze NOT, you'll have another thing coming by the time you reach the classical/intuitionist dialectic! Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 1:35
  • @Kristian hmm interesting perhaps there are many irreducible ideas? creation time relation concept and etc Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 22:54
  • A theory without frameworks or assumptions is like dehydrated water: just add water.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 25 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


While simpler thoughts can be pre-linguistic, all our complex thoughts require a language to articulate them. And a language requires definitions, relational rules, etc. So yes, all theories require frameworks and assumptions. Your “extreme” teachers know what they are talking about!

Not all philosophers say knowledge is meaningless. Most are aware of the Münchhausen trilemma, however, and know that all justifications must terminate in an infinite regress, an unjustified brute fact, or circularity. It seems your course has not yet gotten to Münchhausen, and you have only discussed foundationalism (basing views on unquestionable brute facts) and infinite regress, without mentioning how the Baron can pull himself and his horse out of the mud (circular logic ;-> )…

If you were looking for a straightforward answer to “how does philosophy deal with knowledge” you no doubt have been disappointed. Philosophy is the field of problems that have NOT been thoroughly resolved, and where both basic definitions and appropriate methodologies are very much in dispute. We have knowledge, and seem to be gaining more every day, but the efforts to articulate this using our classical logic system … gets tied up in knots.

What this shows is that philosophers need to rethink knowledge, or logic, or their expectations. Your teachers were trying to pass on this reality — that philosophy is very much of a work in progress rather than a settled set of knowns.

  • upvote from me. but i cant help but feel that the assertion itself is doubtable and also that the very conceots used to talk about it and formulate it is itself something foundational. Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 20:11
  • is it possible in your opinion to have foundationao and indubitablr beliefs? and honestly what is even used to make the concepts of which im using now? i feel it may he like hinges of wittgenstein but without the empirical and sensory edge to the. but then again, this is akso just another theory and requires explanation Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 20:13
  • @GeraldRobertson I think the problems with “knowledge” as an absolute logic term are symptomatic of multiple related issues with trying to logicize our thinking. The solution I have adopted is to learn to live with pragmatic rather than logical truth.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 20:35
  • 1
    I think we have a version of logic embedded in our neurology, but this version, while useful, is not fully applicable to our world. We also have sensors that get data about our world, which our neurology predigests then presents a filtered version of to our consciousness. Neither logic nor data are reliably foundational for us.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 20:39
  • 1
    @GeraldRobertson Pragmatism does not require absolute validity for a framing to be useful. Foundationalism may not always make sense, but it is close enough to “true” to give us a reasonable model of the world most of the time. Coherentism may be a circular logic error, but when all of our options are fallacies then it is at least a plausible assumption. Etc. Pragmatic truth can give a way out for all these issues.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 1:32

Right now say you're sitting on a chair reading this on a phone (let's suppose).

There's the sensation of the chair under your b_m, the color of the screen etc etc.

The word chair, it's function, the idea of sitting,... Even idea of sensation — all these need assumptions.

But the bare, bald sensation itself, minus words and ideas...??? Where/what framework, assumptions apply here?

There are entire philosophies studying the gap/spectrum from mediated knowledge to direct/im-mediate knowledge (See Aparoksha Anubhuti — paroksha : mediated, aproksha: non-mediated). Ironically I wouldn't exactly recommend that text since it requires getting used to Vedanta. Another framework, culture for you 😃

  • It's the UnFramework :-)
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 25 at 0:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .