The regress argument (also known as the diallelus (Latin < Greek di allelon “through or by means of one another”)) is a problem in epistemology and, in general, a problem in any situation where a statement has to be justified.
According to this argument, any proposition requires a justification. However, any justification itself requires support. This means that any proposition whatsoever can be endlessly (infinitely) questioned, like a child who asks “why?” over and over again.
The argument is usually attributed to Sextus Empiricus, and has been restated by Agrippa as part of what has become known as “Agrippa’s trilemma“. The argument can be seen as a response to the suggestion in Plato‘s Theaetetus that knowledge is justified true belief.
Assuming that knowledge is justified true belief, then:
- Suppose that P is some piece of knowledge. Then P is a justified true belief.
- The only thing that can justify P is another statement – let’s call it P1; so P1 justifies P.
- But if P1 is to be a satisfactory justification for P, then we must know that P1.
- But for P1 to be known, it must also be a justified true belief.
- That justification will be another statement – let’s call it P2; so P2 justifies P1.
- But if P2 is to be a satisfactory justification for P1, then we must know that P2 is true
- But for P2 to count as knowledge, it must itself be a justified true belief.
- That justification will in turn be another statement – let’s call it P3; so P3 justifies P2.
- and so on, ad infinitum.
Since being a layman, I am finding my way through my own beliefs in the constructive mechanisms of philosophy which seem to be produced at almost every turn. To continue learning, and while holding suspension of Judgement from what is self evident, plays to the role of where Foundationalism and Coherentism (see also: Coherentism) reside. Hopefully being, by my assumption, as to being accurate within the instructions detailed by way of the mechanism implied by Philosophy. My head is spinning. I mean, can I have found myself relieved of such constraints to have finally said, “Ataraxia (ἀταραξία “tranquility”) is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a lucid state of robust tranquility, characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry.”
For the Epicureans
For the Epicureans, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquility that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.
For the Pyrrhonists
For the Pyrrhonists, given that neither the sense impressions nor the intellect, nor both combined, is a sufficient means of knowing and conveying truth, one suspends judgement on dogmatic beliefs or anything non-evident. It is from this suspension of belief Ataraxia arises as one realizes one thing is ‘no more’ than that. No more up than down, no more wet than dry, no more hot than cold, no more night than day, “the number of stars one can see in the night sky is no more even than odd”, no more left than right, no more black than white as when Anaxagoras countered the notion that snow is white with the argument “Snow is frozen water, and water is black; therefore snow is also black”, etc. Most important of all, in enunciation of ‘no more’ or ‘I determine nothing’, in uttering these expressions, one is merely stating how things appear to them, at the time and in an undogmatic way, without making any assertion of truth regarding external reality.
For the Stoics
The Stoics, too, sought mental tranquility, and saw ataraxia as something to be highly desired and often made use of the term, but for them the analogous state, attained by the Stoic sage, was apatheia or absence of passion.
- Enlightenment (spiritual)
- Euthymia (philosophy)
- Flow (psychology)
- Freedom from fear
- Qingjing Jing
- “Dictionary.com”. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Sextus Empiricus, “Outlines of Pyrrhonism”, Trans. R. G. Bury, Loeb Classical Library, Book I, Ch. XIX, “Nowise more”, p. 109
- Steven K. Strange, (2004), The Stoics on the Voluntariness of Passion in Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations, page 37. Cambridge University Press.
- The dictionary definition of ataraxia at Wiktionary
Rest assuredly, I have not reach that state of “apatheia or absence of passion,” with which a Stoic is as if, one may have found in them self to be.