Infinite regress and correlation.

One interpretation of Aristotelian denial of infinite regress is that if an action required infinite causes it could never be done, and so that any action is done – or even doable – refutes the possibility of it having infinite causes. But why believe the conditional if causes are infinite, the action cannot be done?

On a Humean account of causality, or any account where causes are essentially temporal, the conditional would be true just because no agent could could put an infinite time between an initial and final event. That an action have a cause and effect at all requires it to have a finite time, and so, ex hypothesi, finite causes.

If causes are not essentially temporal there is still a presumption against infinite causes since, again, cause and effect are finite as correlatives. Speaking of a “cause of the cause” or as “both cause and effect” is either (a) to stop viewing the thing you are looking at as cause and re-evaluate it as effect, or (b) to stop viewing it as a primary cause and see it as a secondary one. The question is then whether, in some processes, one can re-evaluate all causes in one of these two ways. This means that a process that gave rise to something is all effects and no causes, or everything secondary with nothing primary, which is like trying to rearrange a set of objects vertically so all are above and none are below. With this set of instructions, it’s clear that the action could never be done, and so such a model of things could never describe how anything actually happened. This is why in the First Way STA can deny infinite causes because they would do away with something primary. The claim is not question-begging but axiomatic, at least if you understand the terms with the sort of clarity that STA does.

So the impossibility of infinite regress of effects or secondary causes is evident from the terms since it follows from their genus: relation. Relations co-exist, and an infinite regress of either effects or secondary causes denies this co-existence.

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1 Comment

  1. ALASTAIR BEATTIE said,

    August 13, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Stoic categories include relation. Never abandon the physical. Infinite regress is an eternal time mode. Physical is now. We divine now.


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