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Zeno

Monday 14 November 2005

Zeno of Elea, a pupil of Parmenides, produced famous paradoxes which were essentially arguments supporting Parmenides’s views. Just about all of Parmenides’s contemporaries thought his theories a bit kooky and logically impossible. Zeno attempted to show that those people who believed that things move, change, and have discrete parts are the ones subscribing to kooky theories by demonstrating that motion and divisibility were logically impossible. Zeno’s best-known paradox is the race between Achilles and the tortoise, in which Achilles may never catch a tortoise if it’s given a head start ina race. For before he caught up to the tortoise, Achilles would have to reach a point half-way from his starting point and the tortoise, then he must go half-way again, and so to infinity. No matter where Achilles is in relation to the tortoise, he still has an infinity of half-way points to cross, so he can never catch up to the tortoise.