The Architecture of Matter: Galileo to Kant

By Thomas Holden | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Much of Chapter 1 was given over to arguing that the most popular, most important, and most worrisome paradoxes of infinite m-divisibility—what I have been calling the 'classic paradoxes'—arise only within the framework of the actual parts metaphysic. They are not general problems for the notion of infinite divisibility in abstracto. But this does leave some paradoxes—'non-classic paradoxes'—also found in the Enlightenment literature that do not depend on the actual parts metaphysic. These paradoxes are motivated purely by the notion of endless divisibility, and do not turn on any particular metaphysical account of the status of the parts of matter. In this appendix I want, simply for the sake of completeness, to briskly enumerate these non-classic paradoxes. As we shall see, not only are the non-classic paradoxes much less popular in the Enlightenment literature than the classic paradoxes I have already set out in section VIII, they are also much more easily disarmed and of much less intrinsic philosophical interest.

Some period philosophers rejected infinite divisibility simply because an endless division into smaller and smaller parts with no stopping place was too staggering—too mind-boggling—to accept. No formal contradiction is adduced, but it is simply asserted (typically with a rhetorical flourish invoking bewilderingly large numbers) that infinite divisibility beggars belief. Walter Charleton stands as a good example here, writing in his 1654 Physiologia as follows:

What Credulitie is there so easie, as to entertain a conceit, that one granule of sand (a thing of very small circumscription) doth contain so great a number of parts, as that it may be divided into a thousand millions of Myriads; and each of those parts be subdivided into a thousand millions of Myriads; and each of those be redivided into as many; and each of those into as many: so as that it is impossible, by multiplications of Divisions, ever to arrive at parts so extremely small, as that none can be smaller; though the subdivisions be repeated every moment, not only in an hour, a day, a month, or a year, but a thousand millions of Myriads of years? 137


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Architecture of Matter: Galileo to Kant


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 305

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?