Aporia denotes in philosophy a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement and in rhetoric a rhetorically useful expression of doubt.
aporiaaporeticaporeticallyἀπορία ''aporiaquizzicalityἀπορία

Jacques Derrida

DerridaJacques DerridaDerrida, Jacques
In William Harmon's A Handbook to Literature, for example, aporia is identified as "a difficulty, impasse, or point of doubt and indecision", while also noting that critics such as Jacques Derrida have employed the term to "indicate a point of undecidability, which locates the site at which the text most obviously undermines its own rhetorical structure, dismantles, or deconstructs itself" (39).
By demonstrating the aporias and ellipses of thought, Derrida hoped to show the infinitely subtle ways in which this originary complexity, which by definition cannot ever be completely known, works its structuring and destructuring effects.


MenoMeno's paradoxeponymous dialogue
After a number of such failed attempts, the interlocutor admits he is in aporia about the examined concept, concluding that he does not know what it is. In Plato's Meno (84a-c), Socrates describes the purgative effect of reducing someone to aporia: it shows someone who merely thought he knew something that he does not in fact know it and instills in him a desire to investigate it.
The first part of the work is written in the Socratic dialectical style and Meno is reduced to confusion or aporia.

Ancient Greek philosophy

ancient Greek philosophyGreek philosopherGreek
The notion of an aporia is principally found in Greek philosophy, but it also plays a role in post-structuralist philosophy, as in the writings of Jacques Derrida and Luce Irigaray, and it has also served as an instrument of investigation in analytic philosophy.
The fact that many conversations involving Socrates (as recounted by Plato and Xenophon) end without having reached a firm conclusion, or aporetically, has stimulated debate over the meaning of the Socratic method.


Sarah Kofman asserts that these two components are crucial to a fuller understanding of the word, which has been historically translated and understood somewhat reductively: "translators, who usually escape their perplexity by translating poros as 'expediency' and aporia as 'difficulty'...leave the reader in the dark as to all the semantic richness of poros and aporia and give no hint as to their links with other words belonging to the same 'family (9). Such links inevitably demonstrate that the terms are part of a "tradition" that Plato borrows from, a tradition which "breaks with a philosophical conception of translation, and with the logic of identity that it implies" (10). To demonstrate such a break, Kofman reviews multiple instances of the term throughout Plato's work. Her discussion of the myth of Poros, Penia, and Eros in Plato's Symposium especially reveals the concept's untranslatability.
Whereas those classified as "early dialogues" often conclude in aporia, the so-called "middle dialogues" provide more clearly stated positive teachings that are often ascribed to Plato such as the theory of Forms.

Socratic method

Socraticsocratic methodmaieutic
Socrates then, through elenctic testing, shows his interlocutor that his answer is unsatisfactory.
Most Socratic inquiries consist of a series of elenchi and typically end in puzzlement known as aporia.


In Pyrrhonism aporia is intentionally induced as a means of producing ataraxia.
Pyrrhonians (or Pyrrhonism) can be subdivided into those who are ephectic (a "suspension of judgment"), zetetic ("engaged in seeking"), or aporetic ("engaged in refutation").

Metaphysics (Aristotle)

MetaphysicsMetaphysicachangeable entities
In Aristotle's Metaphysics, aporia plays a role in his method of inquiry.
Book III or Beta lists the main problems or puzzles (ἀπορία aporia) of philosophy.

Rhetorical question

rhetorical questionrhetoricallyrhetorically asks
Aporia is also a rhetorical device whereby the speaker expresses a doubt—often feigned—about his position or asks the audience rhetorically how he or she should proceed.

Discrediting tactic

discreditdiscreditingdiscrediting tactic
One aim of aporia may be to discredit the speaker's opponent.

Republic (Plato)

RepublicThe RepublicPlato's ''Republic
The first book ends in aporia concerning its essence.

Yoshimi Takeuchi

After defeat in 1945, however, he knew that the declared aims of the war were deceptive and he tried to explain its aporias of both the liberation of colonies and anti-imperialism.

Finnegans Wake

Finnegans WakeHCEHumphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE)
Suzette Henke has accordingly described Finnegans Wake as an aporia.

Aporia (disambiguation)

Aporia denotes, in philosophy, a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement, and, in rhetoric, a rhetorically useful expression of doubt.


Derrida used, like Heidegger, references to Greek philosophical notions associated with the Skeptics and the Presocratics, such as Epoché and Aporia to articulate his notion of implicit circularity between premises and conclusions, origins and manifestations, but—in a manner analogous in certain respects to Gilles Deleuze—presented a radical re-reading of canonical philosophical figures such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes as themselves being informed by such "destabilizing" notions.


Giesecke (1981) says about educational research ("Pedagogy") that is an "aporetic science", i.e. an interdiscipline.

Paweł Jędrzejko

Departing from the assumption of the aporetic (ontic/discursive) character of reality, Jędrzejko fosters research penetrating the common grounds of human cognitive experience and creative activity and focusing upon the complex interdependencies between individual awareness of the worldmaking power of language and the shape of daily interpersonal and intercultural relations.


The occipitofrontalis muscles can raise the eyebrows, either together or individually, forming expressions of surprise and quizzicality.