Halfway There.

In my first college philosophy class I learned what I thought was Zeno’s Arrow Paradox. At least this is the way the professor put it: the distance between a fired arrow and its target can be divided in half, and that distance can be divided in half, and so on, and if you can keep dividing the distance by half it becomes infinite so the arrow never reaches the target. I pointed out that this distance that was allegedly infinite could only be divided because it as a whole, empirically measurable distance, which I thought was kinda stupidly obvious and something that, in 2500 hundred years of philosophy must have already been addressed, but the professor ignored me and went on to Plato. This left me confused and deeply resentful of philosophy even though I came out of the class with a B-, even though on my final exam I defined a paradox as a couple of Ph.D.s, but that’s another story.

And now according to Wikipedia the professor had it completely muddled and the arrow paradox really refers to time and what he was describing was Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox which is illustrated with this:

Suppose Homer wishes to walk to the end of a path. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on.

However I’ve already addressed that point which, philosophically speaking, is an example of putting Descartes before the horse.

Needless to say if the purpose of art—or even one purpose of art—is to make you think what the tag ZENO lacks in aesthetic appeal it more than makes up for in concept, especially since my thinking also took a flying leap in a completely different direction about the outsider nature of graffiti and how “Zeno” sounds like the prefix xeno- which comes from the Greek for “foreigner” or “stranger”, although anyone who’s seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding knows that Greeks pronounce the word “ekseno”.

And most English speakers seem to know the prefix xeno- from the word xenophobia, which is unfortunate because the Greek ξένος can also be translated “guest”, which I think is a good point to stop because I’m not even halfway to any kind of conclusion here.

9 Comments

  1. Red

    I’m kind of glad you were going nowhere. I was lost pretty early on!
    Distance is distance.
    Although time, is elusive and irrelevant, and a man-made construct. That’s about as deep as I can get on this one!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I was lost too which is why it’s amazing I could even pass my philosophy classes. Time as a man-made construct risks getting into Derrida, and his writings are even more confusing than Zeno’s.

      Reply
      1. Red

        Now I have to look up and read Derrida.

        Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I’m halfway to the end of this comment as I express my joy at being a guest of your blog today.
    The rest of this comment addresses what a great host you are, Chris.
    The End

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Your comments here are always wholly appreciated.

      Reply
  3. Mila

    I have a similar story from sociology class, where I spent half of the class arguing with the professor that language is not the only type of communication. I mean, hello – telepathy. Although, it could be argued that telepathy uses language also.
    I guess we’re both good at avoiding conclusions.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There’s also body language and animals have their ways of communicating that don’t use language, unless you have a really broad definition of “communication”. Oh yeah, and a picture is worth a thousand words. With all that I’d definitely include telepathy an a viable alternative form of communication.

      Reply
  4. Chuck Baudelaire

    And while you’re pondering fractions, the arrow dgaf and hits you dead in the heart in less than a second. Physics > Philosophy. I wish I’d learned that in school.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I wish I’d learned how to say “doesn’t give a fuck” in Greek because I think that would be more useful than either the philosophy or physics I learned in school. And if you’ve read anything about quantum physics or even relativity you know that the line between physics and philosophy gets very blurry at the higher levels. The only difference is some of the physics is at least testable, unlike philosophy which seems to specialize in looking reality in the face and denying it.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: