Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dialectics of Zeno

In the article on the Dialectics of Zeno I wanted to emphasize that many of our problems are not the result of character flaws of the people engaged in dialogue, but the form of the argument.

Parmenides and Zeno of Elea made astute observations about the nature of the cosmo. Their work also showed that the Pythagoreans, atomists and other schools of thought on the cosmos simply did not have the technology to answer the questions they were asking.

Zeno's overuse of reductio ad absurdum arguments (paradoxes) was not sustainable.

Meanwhile, the sophists were trying to find a way to bring intellectual discourse to the masses. They hosted public disputations to demonstrate rhetorical skills.

The sophists adopted the dialectics of Zeno. In their zeal to show intellectual acumen, the Sophists created a climate that was hostile to inquiry. Neither Zeno, nor the Sophists had ill intents. Their collective action, however, caused a deterioration in the quality of discourse.

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