Philosophy Class

"The Truth will make you odd."

            The Impossibility of Infinite Regress



The Problem of the "Infinite Regress":

Or how Buddha and Nietzsche jumped from the

endless frying pan... to endless beyond and



Introduction: Views of Nietzsche and Buddha on the subject:


Both Nietzsche and the Buddha, e.g., had a notion of an "infinite

regress" in relation to the "number" of worlds that have existed

or will exist.. Their hypotheses in general contained the notion of

the existence of an "Infinite" amount of worlds before the one of

which we are conscious of living at present.


In Nietzsche he posited a kind of circle of existence whereas at

the end of each of the ages, a new cycle of the same would

repeat itself endlessly. There was no free will, so we all acted the

same in each life lives as we do now.


The Buddha saw an end to the endless "infinite" past of lives.

The number of our reincarnations was dictated by our good or

evil behavior. The evil behavior set us back on the way to

"perfection" and left us in a worse state in our next life than we

were in the one before. Conversely, good behavior made us

progress towards perfection, the life of a devout Buddhist Monk

totally enlightened by meditation.. The reward at the end of the

rebirths was to be born no more, a state called Nirvana.


The fine points of the two above theories will not be discussed

here, so those educated in each system should ignore that I do

not define some terms above to their satisfaction, such as:

devout, free will, good, evil, meditation (oriental style), or the

nature of Nirvana. Since the days of the Buddha' enlightenment,

some of the Buddha's later disciples have gone on to expound on

such things.


Let us side step these concepts and go to the quite limited point

of our examination, the nature of the possibility of the infinite



Possibility of an Infinite Regress   

(Below is Written in the King's

English which does not use the

clumsy " he/she" , but he when

speaking of he and she together, or

when speaking of an example of an

indefinite member of the human



Infinite means no end to something. Something

that is not limited.


Limited means having this much being or being  

and no more. What we are limits us. Being a

dog is limited to being a sensing and

not  an intellectual being. A rose bush is limited

to growing, reproducing, etc. and having

no senses.  


Limit means "contains this much and no more".


A baby human is limited. However, he has

the natural potential is to be a full developed

rational being at some his point in

his development.   His present lack of

development limits him, i.e. he is limited by his

physical and developmental state, also his

environment.  In fact, when our baby is a grown

man in the fullness of his vigor and intelligence,

he is still limited by what he is, his nature.


He is limited by his genetic potential to a certain

amount of intelligence, and the limitations of his

environment.  Even if he has flown to the moon,

and he has traveled around the world, or is even

the most intelligent sophisticated man who has

every been, he is still limited by his nature as a



Limits are on his ability to be in a certain space

only, and no farther. If I am living in the state of

Virginia at the time, this limits me from living in

Nova Scotia Canada at the same time.


Limits are on his knowledge. Knowledge of the

total universe seems to be beyond an individual

man's limits. There are a multitude of limits

which can also be mentioned.


In our known material universe, everything is

limited to what its nature dictates. Some say

that you can't get blood out of a stone, but that

would seem much easier to do than getting

Plato's dialogues from a mouse.


Now number also by nature is limited.. One

mouse is limited to being one.. Two mice are

limited to being two different beings and not

three. This also goes for a hundred, thousand,



Now when we count mice, and we start with one,

we can keep counting forward with, as long as

mice are produced to count.. This counting

forward we can call an potentially infinite egress.


HOWEVER, when we have a mouse and want to

count his production from other mice we have

bred, we count backwards. For instance, we

have bred the 200th mouse in our lab. . His

mother was the 199th mouse we bred. We can

count backwards (either through mothers and

fathers) to the first mouse we brought in to our



When one counts regressively, i.e. backwards

from a determined number, (Use any number,

20, 10, etc. We always end with ONE.. In fact we

could, if we knew where they came from, trace

our mice back to the first something..



REMEMBER the first is the end, or beginning if

you will.. Counting regressively beings always

ends with one.


If there were no first, there would be no 12th,

13th, etc.


This shows there is no possibility of an INFINITE

REGRESS. Counting backwards always ends with

the first, one.


This idea is one of the axioms which we must

understand in order to be able to think correctly.


Once this is explained to us correctly, and we

understand, we grasp the point and realize there

is no such thing as the infinite regress, for it

necessarily leads to the FIRST, whether it be

mice in our lab, or mice on earth, or the first

movement of matter in the universe.





Counting with negative numbers


Some say, we can count below one, we have

minus one, minus two, minus three, therefore

we can count regressively to infinity.


The error of that idea is based on the false

premise that minus one is an entity. Minus

one, minus 2 etc. are not indicative of any

existing being like one concrete mouse.


If a minus number means anything, in relation to

mice or anything else , it means "I am lacking or

owe one mouse". The number 1, 2, 3 in the

positive point to actual existing mice., or

whatever we wish to count that exists. A minus 1

mouse means we owe a mouse we do not have.


We can ask, "Give me the 2 mice you owe me. I

am minus two mice for my experiment." The

answer would be, "I have to go get two mice."

That means the minus number does not refer to

any existing concrete mice. It means we owe

two mice.. The two mice he goes to get will be

existing mice which will fill the void of minus two



Minus numbers refer to a lack of things. It is

does not at all refer to existing entities.


When we count regressively we are always

ending with one entity. When we count forward

or we can keeping adding another existing

entity, as long as there are entities to count.


If we had enough lifetime and interest, we could

start by counting all the molecules or electrons

or whatever is known at the time to be the

smallest particle which makes up the material



While doing this we can't go on to infinity,

actually, for there are a determinate number of

this material in the universe, known and

unknown, no matter how immense.


We could count backwards from this moment

until the first moment of a motion. Moving in our

material universe have to have a commencing

time. Motion is something that is measured, and

that which is measured follows the same laws as

that which is counted regressively.


Regressive counting, or counting backwards

always leads to one. The first movement of all.

There is of course no such thing as an eternal

movement of matter. The reason for this is that

matter is limited in its nature. It naturally

possesses this much and no more of being.


Motion is something that is not intrinsic to the

nature of material things. It is

added. Even in electrons revolving around a

nucleus, the electrons are gaining and losing

place in their added movement and their further



Movement itself is not in the nature of material

things, for movement is change, and change

cannot come from a thing itself, for if it did, the

change would exist before the changes.  This

idea is absurd.


Of course some ancient pre-socratics aimed to

solve the problem by stating that motion is




Believe that if you will, but it still doesn't solve

the infinite regress problem.  If you believe

these particular ancients, try

running (which doesn't exist 'cause it is motion)

in front of a moving car (which in reality is not

moving.)  If I tell you to move, what would you



As one of my students said, "There are two

types of philosphers: those who talk about what

is real, and those who make things up."


Many philosophers, and some pre-socratics

weren't the only ones who seemingly strain

sensibility.  (Take a good look at Kant, Hume,

and the Deconstructionists.)


Back to our thesis: To  


state the whole 


thing briefly, when


when counting down,


we always end with




To count below one is


impossible and




Foot notes:

(1)  Mathematics is a separate science from other sciences, for it deals with quantity.   It is used in the physical sciences and its principles are used in every day life, but that don't make it a part of the physcial sciences, or metaphysics which have different objects of study.. Example:Physical sciences study the material individual concrete and their parts and interactions and relations.  The notion of an infinite regress is a part of metaphysics., according to Aristotle, it seems from my reading him.