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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Quite simply, knowing or responding to the ‘other’ is impossible and must remain an aporia that we approach and respect rather than solve.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The difference, however, between a paradox of terms and an aporia of terms lies in difference itself.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This essay attempts to make the reader recognize that human rights is such an interested crossing, a containment of the aporia in binary oppositions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Informants lost to historical representation by virtue of the aporia or oversights of historical conventions were not my primary concern.’
    • ‘Through the ruse of a technique, Baraka names the nameless, which creates an aporia that interrupts the functioning of the proper name.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Hence the book is embroiled in a number of aporias: between seeing and telling, between self and other, and between event and discourse.’
    • ‘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.’
    conflict, clash, disagreement, opposition, inconsistency, lack of congruence, incongruity, incongruousness, mismatch, variance
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    1. 1.1Rhetoric The expression of doubt.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The figure of aporia, after all, can foreground the significance of the very subject the speaker expresses doubt about how to approach.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘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.’


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