The Motionless Arrow: Aristotle\'s Thoughts on Zeno\'s Arror Argument


Aristotle\'s thoughts on Zeno\'s Arrow Argument as represented in Chapter
9 of Aristotle\'s Physics: A Guided Study can be understood in such a way that it
might not be "next door to madness". In this chapter, Aristotle interprets
Zeno\'s argument of the Flying Arrow as "missing the mark". There are four
premises for this argument, and in Aristotle\'s opinion, premise three can be
rejected. He does not believe that time is composed of indivisible nows, which
he proves with laws of science. However, by evaluating the falsity of premise
three, you will find that premises one and two are also false. Almost all
opinions can be argued, however, and by evaluating the philosophy of both men,
many points can be reached about the validity and soundness of the argument.
Though, by finding the premises false, the argument is not sound, and therefore,
Zeno\'s argument leaves much to be said.
Deciphering from what we know of the argument by what Aristotle tells us
in Chapter 9, the premises are sketched out:

1. Everything is at rest when at a place equal to it;
2. The Flying arrow is at rest when at a place equal to it;
3. Time is composed of indivisible nows (instants).
4. Everything that changes place is doing so in the now.
5. Conclusion: The flying arrow doesn\'t move.

According to Zeno, time is composed of many indivisible nows, or instants.
Aristotle disagrees, stating in line 210 that no magnitude, including time, is
composed of indivisible nows. Exactly how long is an instant? Is time finite?
As you start dividing time, the smaller you get, the less movement occurs. But
even when you do divide it smaller and smaller, is there not at least some small
amount of movement occurring? When will time get so small that movement does
not occur? This is Aristotle\'s reasoning: that time will never get to a
"smallest" point, as length will never have a "smallest" division. Therefore,
he is rejecting the third premise, stating that time is not composed of
indivisible segments.
Zeno, however, feels that time can be divided into a "smallest" part.
After all, in physics, you can determine an object\'s instantaneous velocity or
acceleration at a specific point in its journey, at a specific time. Wouldn\'t
this make time indivisible?
Velocity and acceleration are given to mean motion, which means the
object is moving at this specific point in time. Therefore, according to
Aristotle, this paradox would not be so if it were not taken that time were
composed of nows.
By rejecting this premise, and reevaluating the argument, you will read
that premise one and two do not match anymore. When you find that nothing is
ever at rest because time is never standing still, then the Flying Arrow is
never at rest. This means that premises one and two are not true either, and
this further complicates Zeno\'s argument.
The reasoning from his standpoint makes sense, but by rejecting one
premise using Aristotle\'s rationalizing, we have now rejected two more. Zeno\'s
argument has fallen apart. The arrow is moving, and by following plain rules of
science, we have found this to be true.
Zeno\'s argument, as outlined in Aristotle\'s studies, is perfectly valid.
He states that everything is at rest when at a place equal to it, which
qualifies the arrow as a part of everything. Therefore, the arrow would be at
rest when at a place equal to it. If the arrow is flying, then it is changing
place, and everything that changes place is doing so in the now, so the arrow is
changing place in the now. If you use Zeno\'s reasoning that time is composed of
indivisible nows, you find that premise three is a true statement. But
considering we have found, according to the laws of physics, Aristotle\'s views
are correct, then the premise is false, and the argument is not sound. We have
gone over why Zeno\'s reasoning about indivisible time segments is inaccurate,
hence this will be the case.
According to Aristotle, Zeno\'s theories "go beyond perception and pay no
attention to it, on the grounds that one is obliged to follow where the argument
leads…", and because Zeno seems to hold these opinions, Aristotle finds him
"next door to madness." It seems to be that one is tempted to follow the
argument, because without consulting the laws that hold true for motion and time,
the argument will seem to be logical. At this point in evaluating his argument,
you must think into exactly what Zeno is