Definition of aporia in US English:



  • 1An irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory.

    ‘the celebrated aporia whereby a Cretan declares all Cretans to be liars’
    • ‘Whereas Kant had a calming influence on the young mind troubled by the aporia of infinite versus finite time, Nietzsche's doctrine of ‘the eternal recurrence of the same’ constituted a powerful negative seduction.’
    • ‘It is a stinging aporia, an imposition on the logical life of that which we call ‘God,’ and requires some negotiation on the part of the preacher.’
    • ‘Following Fredric Jameson, he holds out hope that history may yet get beyond aporias to reveal a genuine contradiction ‘with its lurking sense of imminent solution or mediation’.’
    • ‘Informants lost to historical representation by virtue of the aporia or oversights of historical conventions were not my primary concern.’
    • ‘Full of aporias and ambiguities, Schulz's biography has become a compelling example of how the gaps in real history become occasions for invention, speculation, and appropriation.’
    • ‘Ultimately the woodworm is a textual presence, signifying the presence of an aporia, reminding us of the false divisions made by historians in the textual continuum of the past.’
    • ‘Quite simply, knowing or responding to the ‘other’ is impossible and must remain an aporia that we approach and respect rather than solve.’
    • ‘This structure, where you have to become what you supposedly already were, has emerged as a paradox or aporia for recent theory, but it has been at work all along in narratives.’
    • ‘With the desire, on the one hand, to free human agents from the constraints of various determinisms, and the intention, on the other, to provide a unified political theory for the entire social body, Gramsci appears caught in an aporia.’
    • ‘But it will never repay a certain kind of close reading, that which is in vogue today and looks for aporias, fissures, self-subversions, and the rest of the deconstructionist's tool-kit.’
    • ‘The poem builds toward a negative telos: the eventual proclamation of ‘the darkness of white’ - whiteness seen as the totality of its ambiguities and paradoxes, an aporia.’
    • ‘Repeating this deconstructive gesture, Boucher concludes (but does not ‘complete’) his video with an aporia that serves as a goad to further ethico-political vigilance.’
    • ‘Through the ruse of a technique, Baraka names the nameless, which creates an aporia that interrupts the functioning of the proper name.’
    • ‘The difference, however, between a paradox of terms and an aporia of terms lies in difference itself.’
    • ‘Sublimity is a complex of undecidables and aporias of which Levi-narrator is only partially aware and which is often in an adversarial relation to his stated intentions.’
    • ‘This essay attempts to make the reader recognize that human rights is such an interested crossing, a containment of the aporia in binary oppositions.’
    • ‘Neither does he provide any concrete examples of what it might be to think outside of the aporia of situatedness in a credible way, either from the present or the past.’
    • ‘If we cannot find the language we have not found the clear thought, for aporias are met when we arrive at thought's extremity: some matters are simply, and finally unable to be settled by human intellect and thought.’
    • ‘Hence the book is embroiled in a number of aporias: between seeing and telling, between self and other, and between event and discourse.’
    • ‘Our simultaneously living in these strongly and starkly differing worlds is one more powerful instance of our living in a between, living liminally, interstitially where we attempt aporias and try to stay alive at the same time.’
    conflict, clash, disagreement, opposition, inconsistency, lack of congruence, incongruity, incongruousness, mismatch, variance
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Rhetoric The expression of doubt.
      • ‘As happens with Dante's pilgrim, the protagonist of a descent narrative traditionally responds to aporia by imploding, by driving downward and into the self.’
      • ‘The figure of aporia, after all, can foreground the significance of the very subject the speaker expresses doubt about how to approach.’
      • ‘What we have is a highly productive aporia, an impassable pass-a point pregnant with literary meaning at which the text undermines its own foundations and collapses into a new, unanticipated flowering of meaning and significance.’
      • ‘Brian Henry, a younger poet, shares with Palmer a fascination with negativity, absence and aporia.’
      • ‘We already know synchronic and diachronic are out - but what of aporia and synecdoche?’


Mid 16th century: via late Latin from Greek, from aporos ‘impassable’, from a- ‘without’ + poros ‘passage’.