The impossibility of solving a philosophical question, because there are contradictions, is designated as aporia. If a thing is aporetic, one obtains contradictory or contradictory results if it is to be solved or answered. In rhetoric, the aporia is also known as a stylistic device similar to Dubitatio. Here, the speaker is looking for a solution to a seemingly hopeless problem. It also means the doubt of a concrete fact.

The term is derived from ancient Greek (ἀπορία ~ aporía) and can be translated with helplessness, but also hopelessness and pathlessness. The word is composed of a (not) and poros (path), and thus describes a non-path. Thus the translation refers to the meaning of the word: it describes a hopeless question which is based on contradictions.

However, the term was used differently in philosophy. For example, Socrates uses the noun as a theoretical problem which makes the knowledge of one’s own ignorance possible (cf. I know that I know nothing → paradox). Socrates, in his dialogues, introduced his interlocutors into the aporia and thus unmasked their illusion about a certain state of affairs, ultimately leading them to the truth. Many of the earlier Platonic dialogues end aporetically.

When Socrates concludes with the aporia in his Platonic dialogues, the interlocutors know no way out of the philosophical problem, which in part seems unsatisfactory. However, the aporetic outcome can usually refer to the fact that the previous approach to solving a problem was insufficient and inevitably had to lead to a hopeless situation.

Aristotle conceived the term as a task, which was at the beginning of a philosophical reflection and had to be solved by the philosopher. The aporia resulted from several arguments that were convincing, but presented contradictory conclusions. Aristotle under the aporetics understood an art which solved almost insoluble philosophical questions and problems.

One of the most famous aporias is the paradox of Achill and the turtle formulated by Zeno of Elea, a Greek philosopher. This is about Achill, the fastest runner of antiquity when he runs against a turtle in the running and gives her a small lead. it could never catch up. The idea is that Achill would have to get the lead. In this time, the turtle would advance a bit, then Achill would have to cope with this route, etc. It follows that Achill is always more open, but always a piece between the opponents.

Note: In reality, the quicker would catch up with the slower ones, which is now mathematically justified. Nevertheless, this paradox has shaped the notion of infinity and is still being used as an illustration and as an example of aporia at universities.

Aporia as stylistic means
In literature, the term can still describe a rhetorical figure. This is about the speaker (speaker) pretending that he is in doubt about his further action or is seeking a solution to a seemingly hopeless situation. The hopelessness is fictional or genuine.

An example can be found in Bertolt Brecht’s play The Good Man of Sezuan. It remains unclear whether there is actually a good person in the piece, which is underlined by the open end of the work. Especially in the second verse of the following example, it becomes clear that the public is responsible for finding his own answers to the questions raised. The assessment seems hopeless.

We are self-disappointed and disappointed
Open the curtain to all questions. […]
Should it be another man? Or another world?
Maybe only other gods? Or none? […] They themselves thought immediately
In what way the good man
To a good end can help.
Revered audience, go, find your own!
There must be a good, must, must, must!
Short overview: The most important facts about Aporia
The aporia mainly describes a philosophical problem or a question which can not be solved unambiguously. It is usually based on a form of contradiction, and for both sides arguments can be found which lead to contradictory conclusions.
As an aporectic, art is called to think through difficult, almost insoluble philosophical questions and to reach a solution under certain circumstances. This solution is usually the more likely one of the two solutions, since there is usually no correct or even incorrect resolution of the problem, since there are arguments for both sides.
In rhetoric the term continues to describe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *