Uniform TitleZeno, Aristotle, the Racetrack and the Achilles: a historical and philosophical investigation
NameAllen, Benjamin William (author), Bolton, Robert (chair), Klein, Peter (internal member), Zimmerman, Dean (internal member), Pellegrin, Pierre (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Zeno, of Elea,
DescriptionI reconstruct the original versions of Zeno's Racetrack and Achilles paradoxes, along with Aristotle's responses thereto. Along the way I consider some of the consequences for modern analyses of the paradoxes.
It turns out that the Racetrack and the Achilles were oral two-party question-and-answer dialectical paradoxes. One consequence is that the arguments needed to be comprehensible to the average person, and did not employ theses or concepts familiar only to philosophical specialists. I rely on this fact in reconstructing the original dialectical versions of the paradoxes. I show that both paradoxes rely for their success on forcing the dialectical answerer to reflect on his own potentially unending experience of imagination, and show that this renders the most popular contemporary critique of each paradox unworkable in an ancient dialectical context.
In responding to the Racetrack, Aristotle seeks to replace the answerer's first-person experience with something more objective, a visible diagram. He then argues that the Racetrack involves an equivocation, an equivocation resulting from the fact that one and the same visible diagram can be interpreted in two ways. He frames his charge of equivocation in standard dialectical fashion, but his use of a diagram is his own innovation.
While first employing his response to the Racetrack to construct a response to the somewhat different Achilles paradox, Aristotle later proceeds to offer a revised critique of the Racetrack itself. His revised critique is heavily influenced by his reaction to a variant pre-Aristotelian version of the paradox, a version involving counting. This leads him to reflect on the possibility of mentally experiencing an infinite collection. He also reflects on his earlier diagrammatic methodology, and on the conditions that individuate points, especially halfway-points. He concludes that points which are individuated in diagrams need not represent points that are individuated in reality. His revised critique of the Racetrack hinges on the distinction between actual points and potential points, and I show that this critique maintains the dialectical form of its predecessor, while constituting a reflection on the potentially misleading nature of diagrams.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 327-333).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.