As a layman, the Trilemma is helpful in summarizing the ways we can justify knowledge, but does what it says represent a declaration that knowledge is ultimately impossible? For me, the answer is no.
If we ask of any knowledge: "How do I know that it's true?", we may provide proof; yet that same question can be asked of the proof, and any subsequent proof. The Münchhausen trilemma is that we have only three options when providing proof in this situation:
- The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other (i.e. we repeat ourselves at some point)
- The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum (i.e. we just keep giving proofs, presumably forever)
- The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts (i.e. we reach some bedrock assumption or certainty)
First, i’ll acknowledge the ways the term “knowledge” can be used:
- ”knowledge that” - comprehension of concrete facts or abstract concepts that can be demonstrated in the real world.
- ”knowledge how” - comprehension of approaches or techniques in accomplishing simple tasks or complex endeavors.
- ”knowledge of” - acquaintance with people
Given my skepticism about absolute knowledge, the Trilemma sorts itself for me in the following way:
- circularity is unacceptable - I won’t knowingly go there.
- Infinite regression will get me closer to the truth, but never fully reach absolute truth. There’s a point of diminishing returns in this approach.
- Axioms are useful when regression has proceeded to an absurdly detailed level. This serves as a practical substitute for 2).
My work here is done.