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Space, Time, Matter, and FormEssays on Aristotle's Physics$
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David Bostock

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199286867

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199286868.001.0001

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Aristotle, Zeno, and the Potential Infinite

Aristotle, Zeno, and the Potential Infinite

Chapter:
(p.116) 7 Aristotle, Zeno, and the Potential Infinite
Source:
Space, Time, Matter, and Form
Author(s):

David Bostock

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199286868.003.0007

This essay argues that Aristotle misdescribes his own position when he sums it up as the claim that infinity can only be potential and never actual. He readily accepts that there are processes which are actually infinite, that is, never-ending. But he denies that there can ever be a time when an infinite process has been completed. This means that he has to find some fault with Zeno’s well-known argument of Achilles and the tortoise, which he does by introducing the idea that points do not exist until they are ‘actualized’. It is argued that this idea, though ingenious and certainly appropriate to the problem, does not work out in the end.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Physics, infinity, Zeno, infinite processes

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