Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Zeno of Elea is one of the most amazing figures in the history of philosophy. No fragments remain of what he wrote, and yet two and a half millennia after his time, professional philosophers and mathematicians continue to argue, as they have ever since he first propounded his paradoxes, about the point and validity of his arguments. Numerous historians and commentators, as well as philosophers, have written of Zeno’s thought, and a review of Zeno’s paradoxes may reasonably consist of constructions that represent what the consensus appears to be concerning the lines of argument that Zeno devised.

Speaking of Zeno, philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that “by some care in interpretation it seems possible to reconstruct the so-called sophisms’ which have been refuted’ by every tyro from that day to this.” Both Aristotle and Plato have something to say about Zeno. Simplicius, the scholarly historian of philosophy and commentator on Aristotle, tells us something of Zeno’s arguments; but he was writing in the sixth century c.e., and although he may have had some reliable information about Zeno’s views, no one knows for sure. In any case, what he writes is fascinating and promising, and he is often quoted as a source of Zeno’s arguments. Diogenes Laërtius gives some information. Although these scattered passages do not bear evidence of authenticity, the arguments that emerge have a certain genius and integrity...

(The entire section is 442 words.)