Lagura: Futile denial of multiplicity and motion

Fr. Flor Lagura SVD

WHILE Pythagoras (remember his Pythagorean Theorem?) stated that reality is many, and while Heraclitus claimed everything changes, Zeno (489 BC) teaching from Elea, an ancient town in Southern Italy, staunchly denied 1) reality is many, 2) reality changes.

First, Zeno denied that reality is many, arguing if reality is many, then it is either innumerable/not countable. Now, if reality cannot be counted, then reality is not real. But if it is numerable, then in between every counted entity, there is another entity to be counted. Hence, there will be no end to the counting. Therefore, reality is one.

Secondly, Zeno denied reality of change or motion, using several arguments, two of which we shall present.

1) The flight of an arrow: suppose an archer aims his arrow towards a target 2,000 meters away and lets the arrow fly. The arrow must fly through innumerable points in limited time. Hence, the arrow will never reach its target.

2) A rabbit vs a turtle: Running a 400 m. race, the turtle, being slower, will get a 40 m. advantage. When the rabbit will have run its first 40 m., the turtle will also have traveled some distance, which the rabbit will then have to run. Each time the rabbit progresses forward, the turtle will also have progressed forward. Hence, the rabbit will never overtake the turtle. Therefore, motion is unreal.

In the last century, a political foe tried to badger Pres. Manuel Quezon with Zeno’s riddles against motion. Quezon’s swift response was a fist aimed directly at his opponent’s nose. Thus ended the argument against motion.