7

Suppose some ontological theory creates an infinite regress.

Take, for example, Platon's concept of ideas, and then there must be some connection between idea and its actualisation, and then this connection must have an idea, etc. One could then criticise this theory on the basis that it creates an infinite regress of higher order connections and ideas.

I suppose the criticism is based on the fact that the infinite regress prevents the theory from actually explaining anything, since every finite conception still leaves gaps. However, this supposes that the structure of reality should be explainable or understandable, for which I see no a priori justification.

Do I misstate the problem of infinite regress above? Supposing yes, why is infinite regress a problem in an ontological theory?

(Note that I am interested in the question in general, not just in terms of the specific example given.)

  • Why is the infinite regress a problem? It goes up in complexity--- there is no one arguing that there is a strict upper limit to complexity is there? The main problem is the term "ontology". The question of "ontology" is logically positive meaningless in the sense of Carnap. The right formulations of philosophical start with positivistic things, and do not have any problems of this sort, as they are based on computation and physical law, both of which are solid terms that have precise definitions. – Ron Maimon Apr 17 '12 at 18:33
5

However, this supposes that the structure of reality should be explainable or understandable, for which I see no a priori reason.

That's the problem, or rather, the reason why infinite regress isn't a problem to you. Infinite regress doesn't explain anything, which is why it is a problem for people looking for explanations.

Note that this problem isn't limited to infinite regress; in fact, all explanatory systems will ultimately reduce to one of three (unsatisfactory) cases, of which infinite regress is but one.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.