Knowledge Continuum

Notes and Thoughts

An experiment to spark conversations


Action cures fear v I fear action - A false dichotomy?

I have been thinking about this for almost a month now, and I am still not sure if this is even a legitimate comparison. In fact, on one level this may seem like a paradoxical statement, a deadlock of sorts given the circular nature of the argument, but on the other, it feels like there is a clear reason for choosing one over the other. Let me explain.

Truth and the trilemma

In epistemology, there is an idea/thought experiment called the Münchhausen trilemma, which says that there are only three possible ways to answer questions about truth — Circular, Infinite Regress, and Axiomatic.

  1. The Circular Argument, in which the proof of some proposition is supported only by that proposition(self-referentiality). Eg. Chicken and the Egg problem.

  2. The Infinite Regress Argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum. Eg. If there is god, who created that god, and the god before, and the god before that god and so on and so forth.

  3. The Axiomatic Argument, which rests on accepted precepts which are merely asserted rather than defended. Eg. Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another (a = 1, b = 1; then a = b)

Now can we use this trilemma to resolve the antimony?

The deviation

Before diving into the resolution, let's set up the situation more clearly so that we understand the prevalence and the significance of the trilemma a little better.

Unlikely, but let’s just imagine for the sake of this argument that tomorrow morning when you get up, all of what we know as physical laws were completely changed(bar your ability to ponder over it), and what we currently know as electromagnetism or relativity or quantum theory didn’t exist at all. But somehow your existence was still possible i.e., you were still alive, would you still believe in science?

The fact is, science was never a belief system in the first place. Science was, is, and always will be an epistemic tool to understand the existing abstractions based on a set of fundamental theories i.e., the axioms — The third lemma. And this will be true no matter what the new laws are, as the new school of physics will be built upon the abstractions then present. And this goes for pretty much everything.

Course Correction

Now that we have some framework to work with, my question is, is it possible to handle the statements such as the one in the title without succumbing to the paradoxical nature of the argument? My guess is, yes. But to go forward we will need an assumption and a teleological one at that to solve this, that is, the outcome of the action is of some significance to the person who is afraid to perform the action. And with the assumption in place, this can be treated as an axiomatic argument — The third lemma that exhorts bias bias towards action despite the side effects of the misaligned emotions; and the misaligned emotion being the fear here. In essence, all it needs is establishing a prior so that you don’t strengthen your aliefs.