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History of Zeno's Arguments on Motion: Phases in the Development of the Theory of Limits Author(s): Florian Cajori Reviewed work(s):

Source: The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 22, No. 6 (Jun., 1915), pp. 179-186 Published by: Mathematical Association of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2973956 . Accessed: 14/05/2012 08:30
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7. KANT AND OTHER PRE-CANTORIAN DISCUSSION. We now come to a commandingfigurein philosophicthought-Emmanuel Kant. He took Zeno's dialecticsmoreseriously than had been the custombefore. Kant says that criticscharged Zeno with a complete denial of both of two selfcontradictory propositions. "But," says Kant, "I do not think that he can be rightly chargedwith this."'1 Zeno was not as much of a skeptic as has been pretended. Kant did not writeon Zeno's argumentson motion,but he touched on otherargumentsof Zeno. Kant's firstantinomy, of the or "the firstconflict annihilatranscendental ideas," containsparts whichremindone of the following tion of the notionof space, as given by Zeno: If thereis space, it is in something, foreverythingthat is, is in something;but that whichis in something, is also in therefore thereis space. Space, then,mustalso be in space, and so on infinitely: no space. While Kant did not contributedirectlyto a clearer understanding of Zeno's argumentson motion,the effectof his writings was a more painstaking and searchingexaminationof that subject. In 1794 thereappeared in Halle a monographon Zeno's argumentson motion by C. H. E. Lohse, whichis permeatedby the atmosphereof Kantian philosophy. It is the earliestpublicationon our topic whichappeared in the formof a monograph.2 Of its fourparts,the first deals withZeno's systemin general,the second of gives his argumentsagainst motion,the thirdelucidates Aristotle'srefutation

Zeno. The lastargument, Zeno,thefourth dealswith"the only way" ofrefuting a potential between the "stade," is not discussed distinction at all. Aristotle's
2. Aufl.(1787), Berlin,1904,p. 345. III, "Kritikder reinen Vemunft," de argumentis, quibus Zeno Eleates Car. Henr. Erdm. Lohse, Diss. (praesideHoffbauer) refutandorum ratione. Halle, 1794. All our et de unica horum nullumesse motum demonstravit op. cit.,pp. 12-14. E. Wellmann, information on Lohse's paperis takenfrom 179

1 Kant's Werke, Bd.



and an actual division to infinity is pronounced arbitrary. Whatever can be number of parts divided to infinity, says Lohse, actually consists of an infinite which exist even before division. He decides on this point against Aristotle and in favor of Zeno, as Bayle had done, though he does not mention Bayle. Lohse claims that Zeno's fundamentalerrorlay in a wrong conception of time and space. These are not qualities subject to our senses, but are formswhich determine the mannerin which our senses are affected;they are a prioriideas. Time and space can both be divided to infinity, but one cannot considertime as made up of indivisiblepoints in the mannerof Zeno, else what happens in a momentof timewould happen in no time. Rest is not, as Zeno and his followers claim,the absence of motion; it is the least velocityof succession. A body can be perceivedonly as it moves. "Without doubt," says Lohse, "all mistakesof theirsystemsprangfromthat error. Thence it came that reason and the senses seemed to contradicteach other." Presidingat the time when Lohse presentedhis dissertationforan academic degree at Halle was Joh. Christoph Hoffbauer (1766-1827) who, many years later, prepared a cyclopaedia article, "Achilles (Der Trugschluss) ."1 After his referred expressing disapproval of Facciolati's argument (previously to) he states that Zeno's argumentis true only on a condition which has not been stated explicitly:Zeno's contention that the faster runner will always only arrive at the places where the slower has been, and will be behind the slower runner, is true only on conditionthat the fasterhas not overtaken the slower. The only thingproved by Zeno is therefore that the fasterrunnercannot have overtakenthe sloweras long as the sloweris still in advance! A reply to Hoffbauer'sargumentwas made by Christian Ludwig Gerling, professor of mathematics, astronomy, and physicsat the Universityof Marburg, in a prorectorataddress.2 The claim that Zeno's argumentis valid only for certainpoints,not for all, is no objection at all, unless it is firstshown to be a mistaketo assert as trueforall pointswhat is in facttrue of an infinite numberof points; a defenderof Zeno may always demand that the points be shown,for whichthe proof does not hold. Gerlinginsists that Hoffbauerhimselfreasons in a circlewhen he accuses Zeno of reasoningin a circle,forwhoeverhas still to prove the possibilityof an overtakingis not yet permittedto speak of the time beforeor afterwhichthe overtakingtakes place. Against Waldin's argument,advanced at this same university (Marburg) that Zeno assumesthe existenceofmotion, forty-three yearsprevious, to the effect the very thing that is in dispute, Gerling argues that Zeno's argumentis an indirectone, a reductio ad absurdum, the formof whichis quite valid.
Wissensch. u. Kuinste, von J. S. Erschu. J. G. Gruber, Leipzig,1818. De ZenonisEleaticiparalogismis motum spectantibus, Dissertatio auctore Chr.Lud. Gerling. Marburg, 1825. We knowthisdissertation onlyfrom thedescription ofit givenby E. Wellmann, op. cit.,pp. 14, 15, and by Dr. Johann Heinrich Loewe, "Ueber die Zenonischen Einwturfe gegen die Bewegung," in Bohm.Gesellsch. d. Wissensch., VI Folge, 1 Bd., 1867,pp. 30, 34. In Poggendorff's Handworterbuch, the date of Gerling's dissertation is givenas 1830. We have seen referencesto an edition in Germanof the year 1846. Fromthiswe infer that severaleditions of it have appeared, and thatit enjoyeda considerable circulation.

1 Allg.Encycl. d.



Lohse's metaphysicalapparatus Gerlingdeclaresneedless and useless. In the constructivepart of his dissertation,Gerling dwells on the distinctionbetween continuous and discrete quantity, admits the infinitedivisibilityof space and whose sums give respecgeometricprogressions time, and constructsthe infinite beforeAchillesovertakesthe tortoise. tivelythe distanceand the time ofrunning, only Gerling St. Vincenthad done long before, Gerlinghererepeatswhat Gregory is nocase. Gregory numerical assumed a special while Gregory uses letters, are where mentionedby Gerling. The sums of the two geometricprogressions values which in no way conflictwith the estimate obtained fromsensuous perception; Zeno's paradox, as interpretedby aid of the mathematical formulas, conflictsin no way with experience. Hence the puzzle is solved. Though a Gerlingdoes not feel the need of explainingthe possibilityof a mathematician, variable reachingits limit. As to the "Arrow" a sharp distinctionbetween the continuousand the discrete is sufficient. In continuousquantity the numberof possible subdivisions and each subdivision is itself continuous. Hence Zeno's alleged is arbitrary, does not follow. Gerling treats the "Stade" denial of the infinitedivisibility with more than customaryrespect, and admits that, if one assumes with Zeno divisible,then it follows,as Zeno says, that that space and time be not infinitely half the time is equal to the whole time. An entirelydifferent type of discussion,more along the lines of Kant, profoundand obscure,is given by Georg Wilhelm FriedrichHegel. He holds the view that "Zeno's dialectic of matterhas not been refutedto the present day; even now we have not got beyond it, and the matter is left in uncertainty."1 between distinction againstBayle who objected to Aristotle's He protectsAristotle a potentialand an actual subdivisionof a line to infinity. Hegel keenlyrealizes the speculative importanceof Zeno's paradoxes and points out that the dialectician of Elea had analyzed our concepts of time and space and had pointed out involved therein; "Kant's antinomiesdo no more than Zeno the contradictions of pure self-identity and pure did here."2 Movement appears "in its distinction fromcontinuity."3 This continuityis an the point as distinguished negativity, of being by itself; absolute hangingtogether,an annihilationof all differences, the point on the otherhand is pure existenceby itself,the absolute distinctness and all hangingtogether. In time fromothers, the suspensionof all self-identity and space the opposites are united in one, hence the contradictionas exhibited in motion. Hegel's positionis a long way, still,fromGeorg Cantor's continuum, with its skilfulunion of continuityand discreteness. In the "dichotomy" the assumptionof half a space is incorrect,says Hegel, "there is no half of space, forspace is continuous; a piece of wood may be brokeninto two halves, but not disintegraspace, and space only existsin movement."4 Motion is connectivity, numberof aggregatesis its opposite. tion into an indefinite
by E. S. Haldane,Vol. I, London,1892,p. 265. transl. ofPhilosophy, 1 G. W. F. Hegel,History Bd. 13, 1833,pp. 314-327. See also Hegel'sSamtl.Werke, Vol. I, p. 277. 2 Hegel [ed.Haldane], Vol. I, p. 268. 3 Hegel,op. cit., Vol. I, p. 271. 4Hegel, op. cit.,



are the ideas set forthby his Somewhat more specificand comprehensible philosophicalopponent,JohannFriedrichHerbart. Zeno's paradoxes are taken up by him in two works,his popular Einleitungin die Philosophie(1813) and his more technical and scientificAllgemeineMetaphysik (1828-9). Only in the attempted. From it we quote:' latterworkis the solutionof the contradictions
of the path divisibility confuses those,who admit the infinite "The argument inevitably to sucha degree ofthetime, infinite themselves witha corresponding divisibility and thenconsole to infinity, whichmustcontinue to consider the processof dividing, at first willing thatthough as passedover,sincetheysee oftimeintervals number theinfinite theysoonin one leap consider ofpartsofthetimeas wellas ofthepathto theplace theinfinite number mustcombine thatthey are bothfaulty division of overtaking, whichtheycannotdo. The leap and the doublyinfinite to naught." and amount

subdivisionof the time and space is rejected by Herbart, Thus, this infinite because the mindis not able to imagineall the steps in the process. Imaginability at once; throwsout infinity of truthor error. This criterion is made the criterion it throws out non-euclidean geometry and other parts of mathematics. We whichwe have neverseen. Our sensesare inaccurate, cannotreallyimaginethings are crude; hence it would seem to us impossibleto build up sound our intuitions if everything unimaginablewereto be cast aside. Herbart mathematical theory, which seems itselfto involve triesto explain motion by the concept of velocity, that Herbart endeavorsto resolveby his theoryof a "rigid line," a contradiction, whichmighthave given rise to great possibilities upon more a sortof continuum, greater obstacles by far than does the carefuldevelopment. As it is, it offers original"Dichotomy" or "Achilles" which it is intendedto explain. attitudetoward Zeno's paradoxes is taken by FriedrichAdolf A stilldifferent Trendelenburgof the University of Berlin, in his Logische Untersuchungen, 1840, where he constructshis philosophic system upon the concept of motion. motionis commonto the externalworldof being and to the internal Constructive world of thought,so that thought,as the counterpartof external motion,produces fromitself space, time, and the categories. Motion is undefinable. In accordance with this view it is only through motion that Zeno's arguments againstmotionhave come to be. For they depend upon the divisionof timeand space, and the synthesis of those divisions. But division and synthesisare nothingbut special formsof motion. What the proofscombat, they themselves to the controlling nature of mouse as the means of combat, and therebytestify tion. Trendelenburgand Kant evidently begin at opposite ends; Kant takes time and space as a prioriideas, and motion as secondary and dependentupon them; Trendelenburgmakes motion the a priori idea, and pretends to derive time and space fromit. refersto our subject FriederichUeberweg of the Universityof Kdnigsberg2 in different parts of his Logik. He says in one place that the "Achilles" proves that the tortoisecannot be overtakenwithina definite too little; it provesmerely series,and then claims that the tortoise cannot be overtaken anywhereand at
1 J. T. Herbart, von Karl Kehrbach, Langensalza, Vol. VIII, 1893, herausgeg. Samtl.Werke, p. 177. 2 F. Ueberweg, derLogik,2. Aufl., p. 387 if. System



any time. True as this criticismmay be, it does not illuminate the matter sufficiently to satisfythe reader. Of the same type, but fullerin statement,is a criticismby Carl Prantl,' professor at the University of Munich. He claims that Zeno discarded the concept of continuity by considering only some particularpoints on a line and only some particular momentsin time. By drawing his inferencesfromthese disintegratedfragments of time and space, Zeno was able to advance contradictions in a picturesque manner. This conversionof the general and continuousinto the particular and momentary will be encounteredoften,says Prantl, in those who care moreforrhetorical formthan fortrue philosophy. Much confidence of Zeno's paradoxes is in his abilityto clear up the mystery displayed by Eugen Carl Diihring in his Kritische Geschichte der Philosophie, first edition,1869. Three conceptsare necessaryhere: rest,motionand position. Usually only the firsttwo are considered. At each moment (point) of time a movingbody has a definite position but no motion. This fact makes it difficult :2 "The compelling to explainmotion. He says further forceand real conclusiveness of the Eleatic contentionsis to be found chieflyand almost exclusivelyin the logical necessitywhichdoes not permitthe infinite to be thoughtof as completed, as enumerated so to speak, and concluded. . . It is the concept of infinity whichprovesitselfeverywhere and also whereit is not readilyrecognized, as the true cause of the contradictions." Diihring discusses infinity in several places of his works. He believes in the infinity usually set forthin the study of the calculus,-a variable which increases withoutlimit,but at any momenthas really a finitevalue. He makes war against the concept of an actual infinity"jene wiiste, sich widersprechendeUnendlichkeit." "The infinitedivisibility indicates . . . only this,that I can conceive the divisionof a quantity as far as I choose,withoutlimit. If, on the otherhand, I considerthe divisionto infinity as reallyexistingoutside of my presentationof it, then theresoon resultthe most manifoldcontradictions.. . . As regards motion,it must be recognizedthat it thereremainshere always belongsto the empiricalconcepts,i. e., in our thinking an unrecognizable residue,forwe must give up the attempt to penetrate to the reasons of the phenomena." Georg Cantor criticizesDiihring in these words:
"The proofs of Duhringagainstthe properly-infinite words could be givenin muchfewer and appearto me to amount to this,either however thata definite finite number, largeit maybe ofit, or to be, can never as follows thought be an infinite from the concept number, immediately else thatthevariable, ofwiththe quality an unlimitedly largefinite number, cannotbe thought of definiteness and therefore not withthe qualityof existence, as follows again from the nature of the variability.That not the least is hereby of transestablished againstthe conceivability I feelcertain;and yet,thoseproofs oftransfinite number, are takenas proofs againstthereality finite numbers. To me thismodeofargumentation appearsthesame as if,from theexistence of innumerable shadesofgreen, we wereto conclude thattherecan be no red."3

Diihring's explanation of infinity and of Zeno is accepted by Eduard Wellmann, in his historicalmonograph4 of 1870. Anotherresearch,partly historical
'Carl Prantl, Geschichte derLogikim Abendlande, 1. Bd., Leipzig,1855,pp. 10, 11. 2 Kritische d. Philosophie, Dr. E. Duihring, Leipzig,1894,p. 49. Gesch. 3Georg Cantor, einerallg.Mannichfaltigkeitslehre, Leipzig,1883,p. 44. Grundlagen 4E. Wellmann, op. cit.,p. 23.



and partly expository,was published in 1867, by Johann Heinrich Loewe, a pupil ofthe philosopher, Anton Guntherof Vienna. It is referred to by Knauer' as the most acute and satisfactory explanationthat has yet been offered. "The solutionof the riddle," says Loewe,2 "appears to us to lie in the knowledgethat contradictions must arise inevitably,as soon as space, time,and motionare considered at the same time fromthe stand-pointof sensuous presentationand of non-sensuous conceptualreasoning." One point of view appeals to the imagination; the otherto abstractthought. Sensuous perceptioncan followthe process of infinite division only a little way, everythingbeyond is a matter of pure reason. Gerling'spresentationof "Achilles" is an appeal to reason. As long as one considersthe infinite multiplicity of small distances and of time-intervals, one approaches the riddles fromthe standpointof abstract thought; when one appeals to the imagination,then the finitetime and the finitelengthof the race stand out. Loewe seems still to hold to the old view that thoughtcan recognize no end to a motionwhichextendsover an infinite process. Hence the contradiction must stand, the antinomyis evident. Thus we see that German philosophydown to the last quarter of the nineteenth centurycontinually accentuates the existence of contradictionsin the problemof motion. Some English thinkersof the nineteenthcentury,who were interestedin Zeno's arguments, came under the influence of Kantian philosophy. The Kantian attitude toward Zeno is described in the article "Zeno" in the eighth editionof the EncyclopaediaBritannica (1860) thus:
late years that Kant, in his Antinomiesof thePure Reason (see Kritik der Reinen Vernunft)seized

"He brought a mostpowerful mindto his task,and,curious to say,subsequent thinkers have verygenerally agreedin misunderstanding both his reasoning and his method, and it is onlyof

uponthemuchmaligned doctrines oftheEleatic,and heldthemup to the admiration ofall true thinkers as rareexamples of acute and just thought. Bayle, in a cleverpaper on Zeno, in his Dictionnaire, makes him, according to custom,a sceptic. Bruckerfindsthat Zeno surpasses hisintelligence, and he is content to makehima pantheist. Others himwith again,have charged nihilism. Zeno,fortunately, can afford to sit quiteeasy to all thoseaffronts offered to hisreason . . .they [arguments against motion]all take theirrise,as Kant and Hamilton (Lectures on Metaphysics) have shown, from the inability ofthe mindto conceive either theultimate indivisior the endlessdivisibility, bility, of space and time,as extensive and as protensive quantities. The possibility ofmotion, however certain as an observed fact,is thusshown to be inconceivable. To havediscovered thispeculiarity ofourmentalconstitution, and to have statedit witheminent to Zeno the Eleatic,and to himalone." clearness, belongs

Sir William Hamilton puts this matterthus:'

"Time is a protensive quantity, and, consequently, any part of it, however small,cannot, a contradiction, without be imagined as not divisible intoparts,and thesepartsintoothers ad infinitum. But the oppositealternative is equally impossible; we cannot thinkthis infinite division. One is necessarily true; but neither can be conceived possible. It is on thisinability ofthemindto conceive either the ultimate indivisibility, or the endlessdivisibility of space and that the arguments time, of the Eleatic Zeno againstthe possibility of motionare founded,whichat leastshow,thatmotion, arguments however certain as a fact,cannotbe conceived pos1 Vincenz Knauer,Die Hauptprobleme derPhilosophie, Wienu. Leipzig,1892,p. 54. 2 J. H. Loewe,op. cit., p. 32. 3 Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic,by Sir WilliamHamilton, Vol. I, Boston,1863,Lecture 38, p. 530.



is in every thatthe conceivable . . . Now the law of mind, a contradiction. sible,as it involves I call the Law of the Conditioned." boundedby the inconceivable, relation

John Stuart Mill, in his Logic,' refersto Thomas Brown who consideredthe a solutionto the inventionof whichhe lays "Achilles" insoluble,and then offers no claim. It presentsno new points of view. Herbert Spencer discusses questions of time and space in his First Principles2and concludes in general that of realitiesthat cannot be ideas, then, are all representative "ultimate scientific comprehended." In particular,"halve and again halve the rate of movement for ever, yet movementstill exists; and the smallest movementis separated by an impassable gap fromno movement." It is readily seen that the nineteenthcenturyphilosophershad penetrated previously difficulties and had encountered deeperthan mostoftheirpredecessors neglectedby Hobbes and otherswho seemed to thinkthat they had solved the "Achilles" paradox by the mere statementthat time, as well as space, was infirealized since the time of Kant nitely divisible. What came to be thoroughly of imaginingthe "Achilles" fromthe standpointof infinite was the impossibility werefutile. When Spencer, of a distance,that all appeals to intuition divisibility cannot be "comprehended,"and Thomas Brown and divisibility says that infinite Sir William Hamilton say that motion is "insoluble" and "inconceivable," I that they take it that they mean simplythat these processes are unimaginable, them to mean are beyondthe reach of our sensual intuitions. I do not interpret that these processes are beyond the reach of logic, beyond the reach of the reasoningfacultyso as to be, and foreverremain,wholly mysterious. Mathe-matics includes among its results numerous teachingswhich one cannot "imagine." Probably no one claims to be trulyable to visualize to himselfthe non-euclidean geometries;analysts do not claim to be able to imagine or see a continuous curve which has no tangent line at any of its points. Yet no modern continuous and non-differentiable geometries rejectsnon-euclidean mathematician curves. These unimaginable mathematical creations are admitted into the scienceo as a matterofnecessity. Felix Klein states the issue as follows: "As the subjects of abstract geometrycannot be sharplycomprehendedthroughspace intuition,, one cannot rest a rigorousproofin abstract geometryupon mere intuition,but must go back to a logical deductionfromaxioms assumed to be exact."3 It so happens that England's two famous opium eaters, Thomas De Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, were interestedin the "Achilles." Coleridge's terms:' criticalpowerswere set forthby De Quincey in the following
as it "I had remarked as it is usuallycalled,but the difficulty, to him that the sophism, was, in and the Tortoise, whichhad puzzledall the sagesof Greece, shouldbe called,ofAchilles if that,forexample, whichbesetsdecimalfractions; another form ofthe perplexity fact,merely ofLogic,Vol. II, London,1851,p. 381. System New York, 1882,pp. 47-67.of Philosophy, of a New System FirstPrinciples Spencer, auf Geometrie. Leipzig,1907r derDifferentialund Integralrechnung 3 F. Klein,Anwendung
2 H.


P. 19.

Sept. 1834,p. 514. Tait's Magazine,





a decimal youthrow 2 into form, it willnever terminate, butbe .666666, etc.,ad infinitum.'Yes,' 'the apparent Coleridge in theGrecian replied, arisesthus,-because it assumes absurdity problem ofspace,but dropsout ofviewthecorresponding theinfinite divisibility oftime.' There infinity was a flash oflightning, which illuminated a darkness thathad existed for centuries." twenty-three

As a matter of fact, Aristotlehad seen that far. But Coleridge proceeded in an essay on Greek sophists in The Friend,' where he says: somewhatfarther
identical propositions spunout intoa sortofwhimsical as in the celebrated conundrums, paradox Achilles and the Tortoise, entitled thewholeplausibility ofwhich a restson the trick ofassuming oftimewhile minimum no minimum is allowed to space,joinedwiththatofexacting from intelligior aOvlxVa06jEVa." bilia,vo' eva, the conditions peculiarto objectsof the senses poaLv6eva
"The few remains of Zeno the Eleatic, his paradoxes against the reality of motion, are mere

What belongsto Coleridgehimselfin this passage is the contentionthat the sophismconsists in applying to an idea conditionsonly properlyapplicable to sensuous phaenomena. Coleridge's argumentwas elaborated many years later in dialogue form,by ShadworthH. Hodgson. We give the critical part of the :2 discussion
that hundredth in which(phenomenally divideto infinity part of a minute, as you say) Achilles is an infinitely the tortoise, overtakes long operation.. . . And this divisionyou call upon
Achillesto perform, beforethe tortoisecan be overtaken,and to performphenomenally.. appertains to them trulyindeed, but only as objects of imagination and thought.

". . . being infinitelydivisible is not the same thing as being infinitelydivided. Actually to

require thatAchilles shall exhibit to the sensesthe infinite divisibility of timeand space,which of thought and reality is not a worldapart,but is identical withthe phenomenal world, onlydiftreated.. . . Neither is thereany contradiction ferently between them. Phenomenal motionis in thought as infinitely divisible as timeand space are."

. You

. The world

This explanation does not explain. Even as "objects of the imagination" the infinite of time and space is a source of perplexity. Our imaginadivisibility tion is unable to followAchilles to the end, throughthe infinities of time and space intervals. Moreover, "thoughtand reality" are indeed worlds "apart" wheneverthe time intervals,corresponding to the space-intervals passed over by Achilles,are so taken that they formtogetheran infinite series that is divergent, so that, in thought,Achilles never overtakes the tortoise; in Zeno's traditoinal argument, "thought and reality" were "apart."
2 Mind,London, Vol. V,

1 Complete Works ofS.

T. Coleridge, Vol. II, New York, 1856,p. 399. 1880,pp. 386-388.


[The remainingparts of this series are: D. VIEWED UUM(G. Cantor); E. POST-CANTORIAN DISSENSION.]