infinite regress

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An argument consisting of or implying an endless sequence of steps. An argument of this kind shows, for example, that introspection cannot be a valid and complete source of self-knowledge, because it requires that it be possible to perform a mental act (such as remembering one's last birthday) while at the same time observing oneself doing it; but then the act of introspection is part of the mental process, and for a complete understanding it would be necessary to observe the act of observation, and so on, which in this case is clearly impossible. This is an example of a vicious infinite regress: an infinite regress is vicious only if it leads to an absurd conclusion, and in other cases it is often unproblematic.

Subjects: Psychology.

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