Turtles all the way down  

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"The beginning was in the solid bottom of the prima materia and the unmoved mover, the final turtle with feet planted firmly on the ground. In an unbroken chain of succession (not unrelated to genealogy, which is not unrelated to .."--Universal Languages and Scientific Taxonomy in the Seventeenth Century (1982) by M. M. Slaughter

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"Turtles all the way down" is a jocular expression of the infinite regress problem in cosmology posed by the "unmoved mover" paradox. The phrase was popularized by Stephen Hawking in 1988. The "turtle" metaphor in the anecdote represents a popular notion of a "primitive cosmological myth", namely the flat earth supported on the back of a World Turtle.

A comparable metaphor describing the circular cause and consequence for the same problem is the "chicken and egg problem". The same problem in epistemology is known as the Münchhausen trilemma.

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