Leonard: What do you mean, you’re moving out? Why?
Sheldon: There doesn’t have to be a reason.
Leonard: Yeah, there kinda does.
Sheldon: Not necessarily. This is a classic example of Münchhausen’s Trilemma. Either the reason is predicated on a series of sub-reasons leading to an infinite regression, or it tracks back to arbitrary axiomatic statements, or it’s ultimately circular, i.e. I’m moving out because I’m moving out.
Leonard: I’m still confused.
Sheldon: Leonard, I don’t see how I could have made it any simpler.
– The Big Bang Theory, 2×01 “The Bad Fish Paradigm”
The next time someone rebuts me that there’s a reason (however whacked that maybe) for everything when I don’t really believe there’s one, I have an explanation ready.
Münchhausen’s Trilemma, people, Münchhausen’s Trilemma.
(1) All justifications in pursuit of certain knowledge have also to justify the means of their justification and doing so they have to justify anew the means of their justification. Therefore there can be no end. We are faced with the hopeless situation of ‘infinite regression’. It is progress ad infinitum — all proof requires some further supporting proof, and so on to infinity.
For example, reasonOne is backed up by reasonTwo; reasonTwo is backed up by reasonThree; reasonThree is backed up by reasonFour … and so on and so forth.
[x] Why d’you have to buy a new pc?
[y] Because my current one cannot support the apps that I need to run.
[x] Why can’t it support those apps?
[y] Because it’s so slow.
[x] Why is it slow?
[y] Because its processor is old.
[x] Why is the processor —
[y] — OMG, STOP ASKING ALREADY!
(2) One can justify with a circular argument, but this sacrifices its validity.
Define circular: it’s the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end …
Like when asked, “why do you do that thing you do?”, you answer, “because I do that thing that I do.” And like what Sheldon told Leonard in dialogue, “I’m moving out because I’m moving out.” Or to continue with my example above, “I’m buying a PC because I’m buying a PC.”
I’m not sure if we can consider the following an example though:
[x] Why are you here?
[y] Because I’m not there.
[x] Why are you not there?
[y] Because I’m here.
(3) One can stop at self-evidence or common sense or fundamental principles or speaking ‘ex cathedra’ (Papal Infallibity) or at any other evidence, but in doing so the intention to install certain justification is abandoned. It means you’ll have to have a break of searching at a certain point, which indeed appears principally feasible, but would mean a random suspension of the principle of sufficient reason.
[x] Why are you buying a pc?
[y] Because my current one’s old ergo it’s slow and annoying as hell.
*** I know I’m hasty generalizing with the old = slow thing but I’m too lazy to think of other examples right now.
“…certainty is impossible, but that it’s best to get as close as we can, while remembering our uncertainty”
— Fallibilism of Karl Popper and Hans Albert.
I cannot understand any of the above. What the frick was I thinking? :)) Damn you, TBBT, damn you!