Wesley C. Salmon Memorial Lecture - Laura Ruetsche (UMich)

November 8, 2019 - 3:30pm to 5:30pm


Title: Thoroughly Modern Zeno: The Arrow, Quantum Mechanically

Abstract: In the 5th century BCE, Zeno of Elea devised dozens of arguments against the possibilities of motion, change, and plurality.  The loveliest of these, the Arrow Paradox,  is briefly stated:  "The flying arrow is motionless." In 1970, Wes Salmon published an anthology devoted to Zeno's Paradoxes and amply demonstrating their capacity to reward scrutiny from the perspectives afforded by mathematics and physics as they themselves move forward. Wes's introduction to that anthology was my first assignment in my first philosophy course. In 2019, I'll try to demonstrate that Zeno's paradoxes continue to illuminate, by considering Zeno's Arrow quantum mechanically.  The classical arrow points to tensions in the very idea of motion at a point. The quantum arrow points to tensions deeper still: tensions in the very idea of being at a point.  I'll describe strategies for releasing these tensions, but suggest that each comes at the cost of inflicting deep damage on physically respectable notions of motion.  (Concerning prerequisites: I mean the talk to be accessible to a general philosophical audience.  I'll presuppose no prior acquaintance with quantum theory, and will try to communicate relevant rudiments by means of pictures rather than equations.)

Location and Address

Cathedral of Learning Room 1008