This question relates to situations of infinite regress. For example, in reading through answers to this question Are there any non-divine objective standards of good/evil? I noticed the statement "Just as one cannot seriously claim to know what the "First Cause" or first event of the universe was, so too can one never claim to know anything about an ultimate purpose, as one could always postulate a superior purpose".

Do such statements fall into their own trap by claiming to tell us how it is? (A Liar's paradox in disguise?) Do such statements highlight the initrinsic/ingrained nature with which we seek to classify anything with T/F. And if any answer given is prone to this trap (including this one) does it make silence or at the very most another question the best "answer" all of the time?

Apologies if this is obvious, if i got the logic wrong or already discussed.

  • Yes, silence is best answer! BUT you misunderstood it. It is NOT empty. Your week link is that you think logic and language will always give something beautiful and true. NO! its like pen and paper. I can write any mess i want! Language is infinitely more than logic even though logic is his skeleton.
    – Asphir Dom
    Feb 6, 2014 at 14:44
  • @AsphirDom i think you are projecting something, for i don't think i said it was empty, quite the contrary: silence contains all. week is spelled weak in this case. i don't think i expect any "truth". but thank you for your comment.
    – val
    Feb 6, 2014 at 15:12
  • Yes, then i agree. Weak. Why you don't expect truth? I do expect it.
    – Asphir Dom
    Feb 6, 2014 at 15:20

3 Answers 3


I think the title of your question and second paragraph of your question look like they are asking a very different question that the first paragraph. In the title and para 2 it looks like you mean to ask: Can somebody say truly that something doesn't exist? That's related to a classic problem in 20th century philosophy of language about the status of negative existential propositions. The answer to that question is that of course it is possible to say (truly) that something is not. Here's an example, "There are no such things as unicorns." That's a perfectly coherent, logically impeccable sentence to utter. What makes it true is the fact that nothing that exists is a unicorn.

However, in the first paragraph of the question you seem to be asking a rather different question about the legitimacy of using the impossibility of an infinite regress to prove some statement. Again, there isn't anything logically odd going on here. To see why, take an argument like:

(1) If p were true, then there would be an infinite regress. (2) There are no infinite regresses. (3) Therefore, not-p.

I have now proven the falsity of the sentence p. Why we should believe (2) is a separate philosophical question, so if you would like to know more about it, I suggest posing that as a different question.

  • perhaps. I have great difficulty simply trying to understand what it means for something to be true.
    – val
    Jun 2, 2014 at 2:09
  • Truth and falsity are properties of sentences. A sentence is true if and only if the world really is the way that the sentence portrays it as being. "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is actually white.
    – user5172
    Jun 2, 2014 at 9:47

I would tend to disagree with the quote from stoicfury's answer to the other question -- though not necessarily with the claim as it relates to us.

(1) It is possible to articulate non-trumpable types of claims -- the key is just to articulate them in a way that includes that. This may seem merely semantic but it is meaningful. So for instance, if I define the first cause as the cause that precedes all other events of cause, then that definition is not trumpable. It requires us either to deny the standard account of causation or accept there is a first cause. (Generally, those who don't want a first cause assume the former route). What it doesn't do is allow there to be a pre-first cause, because the first cause is definitionally which ever one came first. In this respect, first cause is more a concept than a term that by definition points at something specific.

(2) Since it doesn't automatically point at something specific, it doesn't resolve certain questions. Thus, it doesn't mean we can know the specific content of these sort of ultimate terms. At this point, there is room for false identification between something we like and an ultimate purpose. This sort of point is well-considered in Anselm's ontological argument and the debates after that. The trick to Anselm's argument involves compounding multiple features of perfection together.

(3) Moreover, a term like "ultimate purpose" is harder than "first cause". Because to get to ultimate purpose, we have to have an account of purpose where it makes sense metaphysically to say there is an ultimate one (e.g. Aristotle's teleology). That being said, I don't think it's automatically a fallacy to assert a first cause or ultimate purpose, and they are not subject to trumping if they are definitionally sound. But what can be subject to error is our identification of a specific thing with an ultimate term -- because that identification can err.

(4) You can also choose to deny the existence of any such objects, but then this is not to say that people are using the terms fallaciously -- just that there's something else that makes the terms wrong, i.e. an error in metaphysics or in understanding purpose or cause or motion.


First cause, whether it happened or not is an event we are talking about. Its a fact. Ultimate purpose on the other hand is a very personal thing and has no relevance for the universe as the universe is non living just like a pen. There was an event that caused creation of the pen, but is that event or its own use relevant to the pen? Again, it may be interesting to note that even amongst the living, these are only relevant to the human specie, cause no other specie is so developed as to conceive such an idea. Im not sure if that answers your question, but thats my opinion.

  • fact is a point of view. and point of views there are many. so many that they become meaningless. thus facts are nonsense. yet they (facts) have built the keyboard I'm typing on. Hence keyboards are also nonsense. And this comment with it. Living and non-living do not exist except through a particular point of view. I don't think your answer/opinion addresses the question I posed.
    – val
    Mar 4, 2014 at 1:49
  • So if my opinion is that your question is a nonsensical then I guess that is a fact..are we playing a game of words? Well not me..
    – Raj
    Mar 4, 2014 at 14:33

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