Zeno’s Paradox

By: Peggy Nelson
December 13, 2009

In the screen classic beloved by philosophy undergraduates everywhere, Benjamin Socrates (Dustin Hoffman) is the target of an attempted seduction by Diotima (Mrs. Robinson). Slowly she slides the stocking up her toned, elegant 35-yr-old legs: half way up, then half again, then half again . . . Benjamin Socrates realizes that he must arrest the impossible rise of that stocking. But how?


Then, in his Eureka! moment, he sees through the transparent conflation! Making the first of the many smooth moves for which he is so justly famous, Benjamin Socrates sees that the condition of the question itself, the mode of inquiry, holds the key to the solution. The continuous illusion of film belies its discrete construction of 24 frames per second. With this, Benjamin Socrates realizes that no halfway measures will do, and successfully and succinctly surmounts the paradox.

Thus begins Benjamin Socrates’ brilliant career of corrupting the youth of Athens, documented by his disciples in such illuminating Dialogues as Trixie, Rain Man, and I <3 Huckabees.

[Translated from the original Greek with assistance from @mbattles, @tcarmody, and @robinsloan.]


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What do you think?

  1. I never realized that The Graduate was all about Socratic method. Diotima, like Socrates after her, only asks questions: “Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

  2. So was Socrates a Rain Man-like figure? Because Hoffman is doing the exact same shtick in this scene as he does in Rain Man. “I’m going home. I’m going home right now. I have to go home now, I’m sorry.”

  3. He does it in Little Big Man, too: “General, you go down there.” The idiot savant of a thousand faces…

    Nicely turned, Peggy! I’m looking forward to the “Ancient Apparel” tie-in.

  4. Underwear may be the key. Because I’m pretty sure at several points in The Graduate he’s definitely not wearing any underwear.


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