15.10.2020 in Philosophy

Pre-Socratics Zenos Paradox


The philosophy of the Ancient World is regarded as the cradle of the science. It is believed that main postulates of almost all fields of knowledge were discovered at this time. For example, the Pythagorean School created the basis for the modern mathematics and geometry. That is why the Ancient philosophy may be described as the breakthrough of reason. Nevertheless, it is necessary to take into consideration that, in some cases, it went beyond the sphere of reason. In other words, there were some philosophers, who strived to refute the well-known facts. One of them was Zeno. He created paradoxes a set of philosophical stories, to show that such notion as the motion was nothing more than the illusion. Zenos works provoked many heated debates in the scientific circles. Since the time of Ancient Greece, people have tried finding out whether Zenos paradoxes have the grain of truth. I also want to take part in this discussion. On the one hand, I support Zenos arguments. Although it seems to us that the ability to move cannot be refuted because, each day, we pass many distances, the movement is nothing more than the combination of statics from the position of time. On the other hand, I do not agree with them because motion does not depend only on time. In my understanding, although motion can be divided into many points of stillness, the ability of human mind gives an opportunity to regard it as a complete picture without any pauses. Thus, motion exists in human cognition.

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The Overview of Zenos Paradoxes

Zeno of Elea was a Pre-Socratic philosopher and member of the Eleatic school. He was the founder of dialectics the art to produce arguments to question the well-known facts. The tools used for it were known as Zenos paradoxes a set of philosophical problems. They were small stories, which proved that the recognition of the reality of motion and plurality led to logical fallacies. In general, Zeno created more than forty paradoxes. Nevertheless, in the original edition, they did not come to our time. Only nine pieces of Zenos work were presented in the history of philosophy with the help of Aristotles interpretation. In this essay, we will focus on two most famous examples of them. The first one has the name Flying Arrow. Aristotle in Physics recounts it in such a way, If everything, when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless. According to Zeno, the arrow released from a bow at every moment of time takes place in a space equal to its size. At every instant, it is not moving. Thus, it is possible to conclude that it is not moving at all. The objective of this story is to show that motion does not exist. The second paradox is known under the name Achilles and the Tortoise. In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. According to Zenon, Achilles in a footrace with the tortoise, which is allowed taking a head start, will not be able to keep up it. Whenever Achilles reaches the point where the tortoise has been, it will advance further. This paradox has the intention to refute the possibility of movement to the certain goal because it is not stable in the time.

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The Criticism of Zenos Paradoxes

Zenos paradoxes have initiated heated debates not only in the heads of scientists. I also have been influenced by them. The unordinary vision of traditional notions encourages thought processes to work hard to find the grain of truth. My struggles to solve the riddle have led me to the conclusion that I have a two-fold understanding of Zenos position. On the one hand, I agree with Zenos view that motion does not exist. If to regard it from the position of instances, the objects stand still at every separate moment. The exemplification of it can be provided with the help of such a modern practice as cartoons. They are movies for children with fabulous heroes. Watching them, children can see how these characters perform different things. They walk, dance, jump, wave hands, etc. Nevertheless, all these movements are nothing more than the illusion. In fact, a cartoon is created with the help of many pictures. The quick change of them creates the effect of a live action. This example supports the position, stated in the paradox about Flying Arrow. It shows that motion does not exist as it consists of the combination of statics. On the other hand, people do not perceive time as the separate instances. Human cognition allows regarding time as the uninterrupted flow. Due to it, it is possible to assume that motion exists in a human mind, which combines instances in the indivisible unity. Moreover, it is necessary to underline that motion does not deal only with time. It has also other characteristics. The analysis of the paradox about Achilles and the tortoise can prove it. For instance, it is stated that Achilles cannot keep up the tortoise because it will be always ahead because of the head start. Nevertheless, it is not taken into consideration that Achilles and the tortoise have different speeds. As Achilles is much quicker, he will be able to outrun the tortoise after a certain period of time. Due to it, it becomes clear that motion deals not only with time but also other characteristics such as speed. That is why to evaluate it only from the position of time is a rather limited approach.


To sum up, Zenos paradoxes are a set of philosophical problems, which have challenged philosophers for many centuries ahead. They refute the existence of such a well-known notion as motion. According to them, the reality of motion and plurality led to logical fallacies. I also have been influenced by the power of these riddles. The personal analysis of Zenos paradoxes shows that they have the grain of truth. For example, the example of the cartoon production reveals that motion is created with the help of the combination of statics. It proves the idea, stated in the paradox about flying arrow. Nevertheless, there are some positions, which I do not share with Zeno. For example, the philosopher indicates that motion does not exist at all. To my mind, motion exists in human cognition, which allows perceiving time not as separate instances but a continuous flow. Moreover, Zeno refuted the existence of motion only from the perspective of time. Nevertheless, the analysis of the paradox about Achilles and the tortoise shows that movement deals not only with time but also speed. Due to it, I have come to the conclusion that Zenos paradoxes are based on a rather limited understanding of the characteristics of motion.

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