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Instants and Instantaneous Velocity

Harrington, James (2008) Instants and Instantaneous Velocity. [Preprint]

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This paper will argue that the puzzles about instantaneous velocity, and rates of change more generally, are the result of a failure to recognize an ambiguity in the concept of an instant, and therefore of an instantaneous state. We will conclude that there are two distinct conceptions of a temporal instant: (i) instants conceived as fundamentally distinct zero-duration temporal atoms and (ii) instants conceived as the boundary of, or between,temporally extended durations. Since the concept of classical instantaneous velocity is well- defined only on the second conception of instants, we will conclude that this distinction allows us to avoid the above dilemma. If instantaneous velocity is well-defined then the states of a system at various instants are not logically distinct and thus we cannot generate Zeno’s paradox. However, if we assume that the instants are metaphysically distinct, then instantaneous velocity is not well-defined and thus the second horn of the dilemma about the causal-explanatory role of instantaneous velocity cannot be generated.

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Item Type: Preprint
Harrington, James
Keywords: velocity, instants, calculus, Zeno's paradoxes
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Causation
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2008
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2010 03:39
Item ID: 4385

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