The Paradoxes of Zeno
. Aldershot, UK: Avebury, 1996.
AND Child Genius vs Celebrities quizmaster Richard Osman to Thomas, age 14: "What's your specialist subject?" Thomas: "The mathematical paradoxes of Zeno
of Elea." Osman to Alan Carr: "What's your specialist subject?" Carr: "The Golden Girls, 1986-88."
| This is an ancient puzzle, famously associated with the paradoxes of Zeno
: how is motion even possible if a body is always located, at any one instant, in a specific here and now?
A., The Paradoxes of Zeno
(Aldershot, Brookfield, Singapore, Sidney: Avebury 1996).
To clarify the general understanding of this unlikely thesis, Conto Avalili offers the parable of book collecting, which enjoys in Dublin the same noisy reputation as did the Eleatic paradoxes of Zeno
in their day: In the twilight hours, all the bibliophiles of Ireland gather on their respective porches to admire the night sky, dreaming of expensive books and cheaper women.
A virtual smorgasbord of ideas is contained in this book, from "a page of [pi]" to Euler's discovery of the network theory (finding a method of traveling over seven bridges of Konigsberg once and only once) and such logic problems as the paradoxes of Zeno
I do not think that any mathematical solution can provide the much-sought-after answers to any of the paradoxes of Zeno
. In fact all mathematical attempts to resolve these paradoxes share a common feature, a feature that makes them consistently miss the fundamental point which is Zeno's concern for the one-many relation or, it would be better to say, lack of relation.
Borges's father was a chess player; he taught his son the game; and, as Borges tells us in "An Autobiographical Essay," he used the chessboard to begin his son's philosophical education: "When I was still quite young, he showed me, with the aid of a chessboard, the paradoxes of Zeno - Achilles and the tortoise, the unmoving flight of the arrow, the impossibility of motion.
To the extent that the paradoxes of Zeno reveal "the impossibility of motion," they are in effect tropes of helplessness, of impotence.
This procedure was repeated various times." One cannot help but recall that Borges's father had used the chessboard not only to teach his son the game but to acquaint him with the paradoxes of Zeno, tropes of impotence figuring, as Borges says, "the impossibility of motion." The logic of the scene is plain: To play a game of chess, one must move pieces from one square to another until finally one places the king in a check from which he cannot escape.
All of which brings us back to the image of Borges's father teaching him the paradoxes of Zeno and idealist philosophy at the chessboard and to the question of what it was that Borges learned from that teaching.