The concept of infinite regression plays an important role in philosophy and epistemology. In many cases, this notion can be used to highlight the limitations of human cognition and people’s inability to learn the truth about reality. Furthermore, it is particularly suitable for describing contradictions that an individual is not able to resolve.
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This paper is aimed at discussing the way in which this concept is used by Franz Kafka in his literary works such as The Metamorphosis and The Castle. On the whole, one can say that this writer focuses on this theme in order to highlight the absurdity of the world in which his characters live. Some of them strive to find the end of this infinite regression, but their quest is hopeless. These are the main arguments that should be examined more closely.
One should keep in mind that the term infinite regression be described as the unlimited causal chain that does not have the beginning (Virno 65). Furthermore, this regression emerges at the time when a solution to a specific problem leads to the same problem (Virno 65). In many cases, this phenomenon can be compared to the vicious circle.
Similarly, this notion is often applied to showing that people are not able to evaluate the validity of their knowledge (Jones 193). The main issue is that people’s assumptions about the outside world are based on the premises that cannot be proven in an empirical or logical way. These are some of the main issues that should be taken into account.
In many cases, Franz Kafka explores this concept in his works. For example, one can speak about his famous novella The Metamorphosis. This literary work describes the mysterious transformation of Gregor Samsa into a bug. The author does not explicitly mention the underlying cause of this change, but he gives readers some clues about the origins of this process. It should be noted that the main character has always been living for the sake of other people, such as his parents and sister.
However, it is difficult for him to identify the ultimate goal of his existence. At the very beginning, the readers learn about various short-term plans of Gregor Samsa. One should keep in mind that he is a traveling salesman, and he has to work out elaborate schedules in order to meet every potential client on time (Kafka, The The Metamorphosis 7). Even when he is turned into a bug, Gregor thinks about the need to “rush like mad” to catch the train (Kafka The Metamorphosis 7).
Moreover, he thinks about his sister, whose wellbeing is one of the top priorities for him. Nevertheless, he is not able to explain the rationale for his self-sacrifice. These are some of the main issues that should be taken into consideration. To a great extent, this behavior can be described as the infinite regression because the protagonist is not able to tell what he wants to become and why. Such a question is of little importance to him. This is one of the points that can be made.
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Additionally, it is possible to speak about Kafka’s famous novel The Castle. This literary work describes the efforts of a person who wants to settle in the castle. The problem is that he has to struggle with the endless chain of bureaucratic obstacles, and people are reluctant to tell him why these obstacles have to exist at all. Moreover, the protagonist desperately tries to see the official Klamm who governs the castle. The main problem is that Klamm mysteriously avoids the main character.
As a result, the protagonist has to start his quest all over again. To a great extent, this situation illustrates infinite regression since Kafka’s character does not know how to find the way out of this endless bureaucratic labyrinth. The author shows that the protagonist is “ready to fight, looking for the opponent,” but this opponent evades him (Kafka The Castle 262). In this way, Kafka depicts the interactions between the state and an individual. This is one of the details that can be singled out.
Certainly, these literary works differ in terms of plot development and characters. Nevertheless, in both cases, Kafka focuses on absurdity. In The Metamorphosis, this absurdity underlies the life of Gregor Samsa who is not able to identify the ultimate goal of his existence. In contrast, the unnamed protagonist of The Castle has to face a chain of absurd obstacles that have no rationale or justification. These are some of the main similarities that can be distinguished.
On the whole, this discussion suggests that the concept of infinite regression plays an important role for Franz Kafka. This technique enables this writer to describe a person’s encounters with something illogical, mysterious, or even absurd. Moreover, the author explores this theme in order to describe the existential crisis experienced by a person. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about Gregor Samsa. These are the main aspects that can be singled out.
Jones, Matthew T., Matthew Lombard, and Joan Jasak. “(Tele)Presence And Simulation: Questions Of Epistemology, Religion, Morality, And Mortality.” Psychnology Journal 9.3 (2011): 193-222. Print.
Kafka, Franz. The Castle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
—. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, New York, NY: Courier Dover, 2002. Print.
Virno, Paolo. “The Anthropological Meaning Of Infinite Regression.” Angelaki: Journal Of The Theoretical Humanities 16.3 (2011): 63-76. Print.