Zeno represents on the one hand the attempt to concretely apply Parmenides’ monism, and on the other the testimony of the absurdity of such monism. Zeno’s aporias are real mental lucubrations, completely artificial and devoid of dialectic, as it was inevitable, having excluded a priori the idea of movement or becoming (it is singular that Aristotle considered Zeno the founder of dialectics! Evidently for the Greeks dialectics was a kind of sophism and not the main instrument of historical analysis). It is no coincidence that Zeno anticipated the Sophists, who, however, do not reject non-being on principle but make it an instrument of the false dialectic, to be used as they wish. After all, Zeno was an idealist, even if he used his idealism to show that everything is relative. Sophists, on the other hand, start from the assumption of relativism to arrive at the consequence that everything is lawful (including lying, stealing, etc.). After all, Zeno is nothing more than a rough copy of Parmenides. He represents dogmatism that turns into extremism (in politics one could say: fundamentalism that turns into fanaticism). The same tragic end of him testifies to it. Zeno’s paradoxes are actually absurdities, since they are devoid of dialectic: they are a sophistical and eclectic refutation of the evidence of the facts. The first says: the medium A which should reach point B, starting from a point C, never arrives there, since half of the distance separating B from C can be infinitely divided into other halves. Here is a classic way of applying an abstract scheme to reality. Zeno does nothing but cancel time in space. The vehicle A cannot reach point C because in reality it seems that it never starts. And the space divided into infinity is nothing but a space equal to zero. That is, the vehicle A does not start because it even seems not to exist, not having a place to start from. This reasoning is a form of mental madness, since we want to take away from reality a fundamental dimension: time, from which we absolutely cannot ignore. And by removing it, we end up also eliminating the other fundamental dimension: space, since this cannot exist without it. Likewise, Achilles – says Zeno – will never reach the tortoise, since every big step of him will always correspond to a small step of the animal.
Here not only is time wronged, but two different (physical) movements are also placed on the same (metaphysical) level. That is to say, at first Zeno extrapolates two different movements from a single space, then he arbitrarily reconnects them, making them coincide, so to speak. As a result, the tortoise is faster than Achilles precisely because Achilles does not actually see it and cannot know when he will reach it. In practice, Zeno makes space an empty container, in which he believes he can arbitrarily reconstruct the only experience, which he says about him, admissible. The question of the arrow that never manages to hit the target, as it remains immobile at all times, is similar. Zeno’s concept of time is not that of an indivisible and unidirectional concatenation of moments, but that of a sum of moments that can be divided ad libitum in space. To the point that the arrow not only never reaches the target, but, if desired, it could even go back! These paradoxical images of time and even space could be used in surrealist painting or in a science fiction film, in order to highlight: 1) that in philosophy one can also believe in the absolute relativity of facts and opinions and 2) that such absolute relativity leads to madness. Isn’t it paradoxical that Zeno transformed Parmenides’ concept of being into an apology for absolute non-being? Unwittingly, Zeno made being coincide with nothing (Heidegger will do so consciously), since nothing he used to prove being really exists. Zeno’s aporias indirectly demonstrate that being cannot be proved, especially if he renounces the idea of movement. A timeless being is also, ultimately, a being without space, that is, an absolute non-being: a non-being, mind you, not about to become something, but a non-being that refuses to be. The fourth paradox, that relating to the three young people in the stadium, explains well the concept of space and time that Zeno has. A and B run in reverse and C is watching them. When the two athletes cross at C, B has the impression that A is running twice as fast as he appears to C. Conclusion? The movement – says Zeno – is different depending on who observes it, therefore it does not exist (as a substance or as a being). To demonstrate being, Zeno was forced to make use of the phenomenon, of which, however, he wants to demonstrate the illusory. The phenomenon – Zeno implies – cannot be scientifically analyzed, as the perception that one has of it is entirely relative to the observer.
In other words, Zeno does not use being to demonstrate the validity of phenomena, but uses phenomena, reconstructed (as in the laboratory) or artificially interpreted (taking away from them the objective space and time), to demonstrate that deception of the senses indirectly attests to the rational, speculative truth of being (of a being, of course, above space and time!). Zeno here looks like Popper. History, for Zeno, is not only a “process without a subject” (as for Althusser), but also an absence of process, as it is timeless and with a space reduced to zero by its infinite subdivisions. In a sense, man can never die because he can never be born.
ZENONE AND THE CONCEPTS OF SPACE AND TIME
Zeno claimed to stop time, even to make it reversible, that is, to invert its trajectory, as time machines do in science fiction films, or in the theory of relativity the hypothesis of traveling beyond the speed of light, to observe from some planet the past of the Earth. But all this is impossible, and even if it were possible it would be contrary to the natural logic of things, to the natural evolution of matter. Man is a product of the evolution of nature: stopping time would be like wanting to destroy oneself, although this desire for eternity is part of every human being (as attested by the aesthetic products of beauty, mummification, scientific experiments on hibernation and many other things). In creating the human being, time did not stop, but continued to move forward, for the very existence of man. After all, aging is a form of progress. Individuals who never “get old” have little “history”, little experience behind them, little maturity. If for some individuals it seems that time has stopped, this is considered an advantage for their physical appearance, but the judgment is superficial. In reality, the beauty of an individual not only does not decrease but also increases as his maturity increases. Become a beauty charged with humanity. It is precisely this form of irreversible process that forces man to personal responsibility, that is, to ask himself questions about his identity as an individual and as a subject belonging to a social context.
Space and time are the two historical coordinates that guarantee us the possibility of living a dynamic existence, in motion. Space and time are both essential, since if one has the peculiar characteristic of three-dimensionality, the other has the characteristic of being unidirectional. The change of things is therefore a richness, as well as an event to be acquired with difficulty: thanks to it the abilities of the human being are continually put to the test. Space and time re-propose ever new situations, by virtue of which man must re-measure his intelligence and will. That time has its own objectivity is also demonstrated by the fact that the theoretical advances of intellectuals never manage to be realized until the conditions are ripe. It is not enough to conform individually to the evolution of time. One does not feel “alone” in control of time: a collective process is needed. Time pushes men forward, inexorably, but not everyone is able to be aware of this need. Few are able to resign themselves to the idea of having “their time”. Just as few understand the meaning of the expression “to conform to the times”. Time, on the other hand, is not an objective evidence whose meaning imposes itself on its own. It is only a formal condition for life, the existence of men to have a “meaning”. Those who prefer to “stop” time to safeguard their interests, allow themselves to be condemned by history. It is the idealists who deny objectivity to space and time. Eg. for Berkeley, time is but a succession of ideas in our consciousness; for Kant, space and time are a form of intuition … It can be noted here that Zeno did not intend to deny the objectivity of space, but only that of time (or movement). In doing so, however, he did not realize that the two elements are inseparable, so that when one varies, the other also varies (as Einstein has shown). Vary in what sense? Aren’t space and time objective? They are objective, but they are not absolute. For a monk of Mount Athos, time, for example, undoubtedly has a different value than for a stockbroker: for one, time runs very slowly (and hardly notices it), for the other instead it runs very fast. (and he feels the rhythm very much). The difference is not so much in time, which in itself is objective and flows the same for both, but rather in space, within which one can live and perceive time in even opposite ways. This of course does not mean that space depends on a subjective perception. Space, in reality, is a place where all things acquire a value according to the subject that values them, but the subject cannot give a value to things regardless of the space in which he lives or in which those things are placed (nor regardless of time). A solemn liturgy or an ancient icon has an exceptional value for the monk of Athos, while for the stockbroker what counts are coupons, carry-overs and dividends. He would only be able to see the venal side of an icon. The same things put in different places would surely have different values. Is it therefore only man who gives value to things? No, because if we transferred the stockbroker to a monastery, his shares and securities would have no value here, even if he tried hard to prove otherwise (unless the agent can convince everyone the monks that it is better to play on the stock exchange than to pray). It is therefore the coordinates of space and time that allow man to give the right value to things. These coordinates are extremely mobile, even if within impassable limits, beyond which there is neither the human being nor perhaps even matter. Those who “speculate” on space or time, in an absolutely arbitrary way, continually risk self-destruction.
Man must respect the fundamental properties of space and time, which, for example, cannot be restricted or resized to infinity, that is, reduced to a point or even to zero (as Zeno claims to do); nor can they be disconnected from each other and develop in a completely autonomous way (think of the “elixir of long life”); neither space nor time can be intrinsically dissected, divided, without this having consequences on man and the environment (think of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The fundamental characteristic of the space is – as has been said – the three-dimensionality. This means that in any human experience one must value vertical, horizontal and global (or depth) relationships. The latter, in particular, give the measure of the proportions, of the balance of the other two ratios. Every human experience could be, in this sense, represented by a graph: the individual is only a point of conjunction of the three dimensions. In space and space you cannot do what you want – as Pythagoras believed, who, like Newton, considered space and time to be completely independent of matter. This is a form of naivety. A blind man moves easily in his home; placed in another house identical to his, after being informed, he will move with great uncertainty, at least at first. Why? Because space and time are by no means independent of the subject. Which can only be conceived as being part of a certain space and time. The simple fact of moving the blind man into an environment that has identical characteristics to him, is already a source of anguish. It would be so even if the blind man were kept unaware of the displacement. In fact, the copy is never identical to the original. This is another typical feature of the coexistence of the two essential dimensions of matter. On the contrary, it can be said, in this respect, that the anguish for the blind would not be greater if the environment were completely different. It would be if the subject did not perceive the new space and the new time as an intimate part of his own existence. But this familiarization is only a matter of time. The astronaut’s anguish does not depend so much on the lack of gravity or the absence of the usual, terrestrial space and time, but also on the difficulty in managing with mastery the “extra-terrestrial” circumstances, the cosmic conditions in which he lives. The fact of personally participating not only in the space project but even in the construction of the means and tools that he will have to use in his mission can certainly help him. Everything else: photographs of relatives, music, books, traditional food, entertainment …, is of relative importance. The space-time coordinates, in the astronaut or in the geotechnician who periodically lives in the depths of the earth, probably reach the maximum allowed limit. That space and time have a decisive influence on matter is also demonstrated by the fact that women lose their menstrual cycle. The woman, much more than the man, is very sensitive to the irregular mutation of space and time. Space travel and endurance tests in the bowels of the earth should serve, among other things, to verify the human limits beyond which the human being cannot go, without suffering lethal consequences for his organism.
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