Why infinite regress is impossible?


#22

To move from 1 to 0 is not the same thing as moving an infinite number of times…

The qeustion of Zeno paradox is not operating in the same context as an infinite regress


#23

It depends upon the type of infinite regress. I could conceive a line of infinite dominoes, with an infinite number of fallen ones behind and an infinite number of fallen ones in front. I see no issue with an infinite regress of that type of series. Neither did Thomas Aquinas. In those series, prior actors did their job and were done. Once a domino falls, it doesn’t matter if I remove it from the sequence. It won’t stop the domino effect from continuing with the ones actively falling and yet to fall.

The issue is in series where all the actors in the series need to be continuously active in order to preserve the series. If I suspend a lamp from a ceiling using a chain of links, one end needs to actually be attached to the ceiling. If an end isn’t attached to a ceiling it doesn’t matter how many links I add to the chain. I can add an infinite number of links. It doesn’t get the lamp off the ground. Therefore, if I know I have a lamp suspended by a series of chain links, I know that one end must be grounded to something else in order to actually hang the lamp. Likewise, in this type of series, if I remove any of the chain links from the middle (like we did with the fallen domino), the lamp still comes crashing to the ground. In the domino series a fallen domino had did its job and was done. It didn’t affect future dominos. In the chain series each link in the chain is constantly active and is constantly dependent on the chain being grounded, because the ability of one link to hold up another link is not something passed on once for all, but is something that it derives each and every moment.


#24

Achilles and the tortoise
“Achilles and the Tortoise” redirects here. For other uses, see Achilles and the Tortoise (disambiguation).

In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead.

In the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, Achilles is in a footrace with the tortoise. Achilles allows the tortoise a head start of 100 meters, for example. If we suppose that each racer starts running at some constant speed (one very fast and one very slow), then after some finite time, Achilles will have run 100 meters, bringing him to the tortoise’s starting point. During this time, the tortoise has run a much shorter distance, say, 10 meters. It will then take Achilles some further time to run that distance, by which time the tortoise will have advanced farther; and then more time still to reach this third point, while the tortoise moves ahead. Thus, whenever Achilles arrives somewhere the tortoise has been, he still has some distance to go before he can even reach the tortoise.[11]

Clearly zenos paradox does not involve somebody progressing an actually infinite number of events.


#25

Right. But, the notion of an “infinite regress” isn’t in it’s infinity, per se, but in its lack of termination. The point is that there must be a cause sufficient to explain the effects, and without an uncaused cause, there cannot be such an endpoint.

By the phrase “no member of the chain can explain it”, the author means that no member of the chain provides a sufficient and complete cause. Do you disagree with that?

Why is there “no need for [a sufficient cause]”?

Well… that’s part of the force of the argument, isn’t it? Namely, that we would have a situation that creates an infinite regress, and that cannot actually exist.

I disagree that there could be a real situation with “infinite intermediate causes”, although I recognize that Aquinas, who didn’t want to contradict Aristotle (who himself thought that the universe had no beginning), would have allowed for it as a technical possibility.

However, even if you do have an infinite number of intermediate causes and no first cause, then you do not have an answer that is sufficiently explicative!

Aah, but in that case, you have a series that converges to a particular number! That’s not the case with an infinite regress!


#26

True, infinite regress as in “cause” is not only impossible it’s irrational


#27

The second paragraph of my post accounts for an infinite series of intermediate or secondary causes. It might be useful to think of your infinite series of secondary causes in a linear fashion. The principal or fundamental or first cause is not one that’s necessarily “standing at the front of the line”. Rather, the point is that all of the causes in the infinite series are still contingent. They all rely on an independent causal power outside of the series to impart their causal efficacy.


#28

This is an interesting concept I have never heard before.


#29

No, I meant that by going from x=1 to zero you can go from y=1 to y=infinity, y=1/x.


#30

Why there should be any need for vertical causation? Things could have an essence.


#31

That’s because secondary causes were already previously caused.

Yes, all those causes had to have their cause by definition. No cause just shows up from nothing. Thus getting back to the first cause of everything. The conundrum, how did that first cause happen? When there is NOTHING, then by definition from NOTHING comes NOTHING. So how did that 1st cause even get there?


#32

Why things is not explicative? You will never reach to infinity therefore all causes could be intermediate causes.

We were talking if we could have a real infinity. Apparently we can.


#33

You are not talking about vertical and eternal causation. Here we are talking about horizontal and temporal causation.


#34

It’s not a question of whether we find the cause – it’s a question of whether the cause exists! And, we reach a paradox: if an entity has only intermediate causes, and no first cause, then it cannot be said to exist as an effect from a cause.

If the claim were merely “there are an uncountable number of intermediate causes”, then you’d be OK in your reasoning – we’d just be saying “we can’t get through all the intermediate causes in order to reach the first cause”. However, that’s not what the argument against an infinite regress is saying. Rather, it’s saying that there is no first cause, and instead, only intermediate causes. That’s what makes it untenable as a solution.


#35

Yes, that argument is just approaching the issue of an infinite regress from another perspective for the purpose of illustration. A temporal infinite regress instantiated by an atemporal cause ceases to exist if you remove the atemporal cause, similar to the example provided.

You’re burning down straw men, friend. I disagree with the statement “everything has a cause”. I’m arguing that “every contingent (secondary) thing must have a cause”. Or if you’d like to be more precise in wording, “every actualization of potential has a cause.” The first cause is not contingent and has no potential (it is pure act), by definition. If it has potential to be actualized or is contingent, it is not the first, and you continue following your infinite regress. But, as has been demonstrated (refer to Wesrock’s post for yet another analogy), an infinite regress must terminate somewhere or no potential would be actualized. Everything would be remain contingent (or potential) awaiting something non-contingent/necessary/purely actual to actualize it. So through refuting infinite regress, we can assert there must be a terminating point, or first cause, and that one of the necessary characteristics of that cause must necessarily be that it has no cause.


#36

Wrong. I don’t believe in infinite regress.
Infinite regress is going to fit an atheist view who denies God.

IOW when there is nothing, there is none of the underlined.

Everything begins with the first cause. All the underlined, would not be there without the first cause

Thus, The first cause of everything, Is God, the uncaused cause of everything.


#37

Wait, I’m confused. Are you arguing that there is an uncaused first cause that’s God? Cause that’s what I’m arguing.


#38

That’s the whole point of making the point for ‘infinite regress’. It’s untenable, and therefore, leads us to the conclusion that there must be an uncaused cause. :wink:

No, and that’s why it’s such a powerful argument. An appeal to ‘infinite regress’ isn’t an appeal to its plausibility, but rather, an appeal to its unreasonableness!


#39

That’s always been my position.


#40

ROFL, I’m dumb then. Have a nice day, friend.


#41

Here’s what I previously said

None of the infinite regress people I’ve had conversations with believe in God. So they invent causes that go infinitely back with no first cause.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.