Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Circularity: Circularity is an expression for the problem that something cannot be explained by itself. The problem arises, for example, when, in an attempted definition, no independent second expression is found for an object or for the relations of this object to other objects. See also circle, vicious circle principle, totality, wholes, type theory, self-reference.

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Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

 
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Marvin Minsky on Circular Reasoning - Dictionary of Arguments

Minsky I 48
Circularity/circular causality/Minsky: Two goals can support each other:
A causes B John wanted to go home because he felt tired of work. B causes A John felt tired of work because he wanted to go home. There need be no first cause (…).
Then a loop of circular causality ensues, in which each goal gains support from the other until their combined urge becomes irresistible. We're always enmeshed in causal loops. Suppose you had borrowed past your means and later had to borrow more in order to pay the interest on your loan. If you were asked what the difficulty was, it would not be enough to say simply, Because I have to pay the interest, or to say only, Because I have to pay the principal. Neither alone is the actual cause, and you'd have to explain that you're caught in a loop.
There are countless different types of networks that contain loops. But all networks that contain no loops are basically the same: each has the form of a simple chain.
Minsky I 49
Unanswerable questions: What caused the universe, and why? How can you tell which beliefs are true? What is the purpose of life? How can you tell what is good? These questions seem different on the surface, but all of them share one quality that makes them impossible to answer: all of them are circular! But when thinking keeps returning to its source, it doesn't always mean something's wrong. For circular thinking can lead to growth when it results, at each return, in deeper and more powerful ideas.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Minsky I
Marvin Minsky
The Society of Mind New York 1985

Minsky II
Marvin Minsky
Semantic Information Processing Cambridge, MA 2003


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-06-17
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