Archimedean point

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An Archimedean point (or "Punctum Archimedis") is a hypothetical vantage point from which an observer can objectively perceive the subject of inquiry, with a view of totality. The ideal of "removing oneself" from the object of study so that one can see it in relation to all other things, but remain independent of them, is described by a view from an Archimedean point.[1] For example, the philosopher John Rawls uses the heuristic device of the original position in an attempt to remove the particular biases of individual agents in an attempt to demonstrate how rational beings might arrive at an objective formulation of justice.[2]

The expression comes from Archimedes, who supposedly claimed that he could lift the Earth off its foundation if he were given a place to stand, one solid point, and a long enough lever. This is also mentioned in Descartes' second meditation with regard to finding certainty, the 'unmovable point' Archimedes sought.[3]

Sceptical and anti-realist philosophers criticise the possibility of an Archimedean point, claiming it is a form of scientism,[4] for example;

We can no more separate our theories and concepts from our data and percepts than we can find a true Archimedean point—a god’s-eye view—of ourselves and our world.[5]

— Michael Shermer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Archimedean Point. Oxford Reference - Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  2. ^ Communitarianism. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  3. ^ "Quotations about Archimedes Lever". Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  4. ^ Archimedean Point. Oxford Reference - Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  5. ^ Shermer, Michael. "The Really Hard Science". Scientific American. Retrieved 2015-08-21.