As if Socrates’ trial and execution were not evidence enough, from the streets of New York City comes new proof that philosophy and politics don’t mix.
Melissa Rosser, Associate Professor of Philosophy at PUNY, is a specialist in ancient philosophy. Among other areas of interest, she has written several books about the paradoxes of Zeno, a Pre-Socratic philosopher who argued that real motion and change are impossible. So, when she was pulled over by a police officer for failing to stop at a stop sign, she thought she could put her philosophy to use in a way that would be not only fun and practical, but might even get her out of a ticket.
Rosser persuaded Police Sgt. Dustin Hubbard that, as there is no minimum amount of time for which motorists are required to stop at a stop sign, even an instant during which she was not moving would be enough to satisfy the law. She then proceeded to prove to him that, since an instant has no duration, no motion can occur in an instant.
At this point, Officer Hubbard demanded that Rosser submit to tests for intoxicant substances. Although police chemists failed to find any traces of drugs or alcohol, Rosser is now in the NYCJ, awaiting trial on charges that include philosophical malpractice and corrupting the youth.
The American Philosophical Association (APA) and the National Association of Women Philosophers (NAWP) have publicly objected to Rosser’s imprisonment, and have called for all philosophers to go on strike in protest.
Photo by Manfred Brückels, “Das Schillerdenkmal auf dem Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin; Bildhauer: Reinhold Begas (1831-1911); Allegorische Darstellung der Philosophie,” CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.