Chronology as a Whole

The man nods slowly and then begins to speak...

Yes, motion and change seem to be popular topics around here. Our friend Diodorus correctly noted that any such discussion involves a model that we have reached by reason. We may perceive a thing over here, then perceive it over there, but how we describe and relate those moments and their content is more complicated. Even that overview hides complexity! For example, at the later perceptive moment we are relying on our memory of the earlier moments. Although, perhaps I am misleading you there, for it is also wrong to speak of the later moment as though we formulate the model while in it, as a sort of uniquely privileged point. Similarly, we must ask if it is proper to consider time as a series of discrete "moments". At any rate, it's not that I deny there's something to be discussed, so much as I want to warn outsiders against careless assumptions.

As an aside, Diodorus put forward an alternative to the typical ways we define a term. Philosophers have argued about whether a term has an inherent meaning, or whether a term is defined by common agreement. Diodorus inserted a third challenger - the term is defined by the intent of the speaker. There is so much to say about this great soul, yet we have little to remember him by beyond extensive testimonia from later authors. It is said, "With this character's death, the thread of prophecy is severed." Given the apparent loss of his works, it sometimes feels like we are in a benighted era.

Anyway, don't let me get distracted; we were discussing his views on motion. If we go over the source material, you'll see that he was a very Zeno-like figure. He came up with many tricky scenarios, thereby revealing that his opponents' models of change were incoherent. Depending on the assumptions we accept, we may reach a remarkable or incoherent conclusion. For example, we all know the story of the arrow. If we look at the whole story of a person lining up and shooting a target, then we know there is motion. Yet, if we take a picture of that arrow in flight, in that picture it is of course perfectly still. So it might be said that a thing is in motion, but is not moving. Yet, we are Eleatics, so even if we assume that time can be divvyed up into discrete, timeless moments, we will still posit the full story. Whereupon, the arrow will always have some relationship or status within its overall path, and measuring that path we will be able to assign the arrow a relative velocity and other such details.

Let's step away from Zeno and play a new game: take a ball and throw it on a roof. When does the "touching" occur between the ball and the roof? If the ball is in the air, they are separate. If the ball is on the roof, they are already in contact. There is no particular moment that exhibits a third relationship, one distinct from contact or separation. Similarly, consider a wall that falls down. There is no point where it collapses - it is either standing or rubble. I sense your soul rebels, but tread carefully. In examining change this way, we find that it has no place absent the whole. It is the perfection of Being that makes this information coherent; we describe "change" as a sort of diffuse fact that is spread across a complete chronological dimension.

Here's another one from Diodorus: you will die, yes? But if so, you will die either when you are living or when you are dead. Surely it doesn't happen when you are alive, for then you are alive and not dead! Yet, surely it does not happen when you are dead, for at that point to die would bring about a second death. Each particular moment you identify will fail to contain the change you are seeking. Therefore, we must broaden our scope and consider this as a diffuse process. That isn't to say we can't measure changes throughout the process, but rather that we can only hope to make sense of it all if we take it in context.

There is so much left unsaid here; I have high hopes for this exhibit. Consider that Helen has three husbands. Tell me how a thing can come to be and then perish. On this last point, it cannot come to be, for at the point prior to its existence it is not and therefore is not coming from there. And should you have it perish, yet it remains in that moment where we originally found it. It will not even budge an inch! It is ridiculous to say a thing is where it is not, and is not where it is.

The man scoffs and sighs to himself, then smiles at you.

Sorry, now I am being belligerent. At any rate, Zeno took a particular approach and Diodorus expanded on that theme in significant ways. I have only scratched the surface with what I have said today. All would do well to further explore the issues raised by Zeno and Diodorus. They are eristics, striking down those who rebel against the sages, Parmenides and Melissus. By their grace we do not succumb to incoherence and we need not fear those who would obstruct our path to the truth.

With that, the man appears lost in thought. He nods his head and then suggests that you either head to the general exhibit on change, or retire to the guesthouse. You decide to...


  1. Thank the man for his time and move on to the general exhibits...
  2. Bid farewell to the man and head off to the guesthouse...