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Rational Deliberation in the Face of Inconsistency

Nicholas Rescher

Publication Year: 2009

The word apory stems from the Greek aporia, meaning impasse or perplexing difficulty. In Aporetics, Nicholas Rescher defines an apory as a group of individually plausible but collectively incompatible theses. Rescher examines historic, formulaic, and systematic apories and couples these with aporetic theory from other authors to form this original and comprehensive survey. Citing thinkers from the pre-Socratics through Spinoza, Hegel, and Nicolai Hartmann, he builds a framework for coping with the complexities of divergent theses, and shows in detail how aporetic analysis can be applied to a variety of fields including philosophy, mathematics, linguistics, logic, and intellectual history. Rescher's in-depth examination reveals how aporetic inconsistency can be managed through a plausibility analysis that breaks the chain of inconsistency at its weakest link by deploying right-of-way precedence based on considerations of cognitive centrality. Thus while involvement with cognitive conflicts and inconsistencies are pervasive in human thought, aporetic analysis can provide an effective means of damage control.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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Front Flap

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pp. vii

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1. The Nature of Apories

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pp. 1-8

In Greek, aporía literally means an impasse, a blockage where there is no practicable way to go forward. The word eventually came to characterize any thing, situation—and even person!—who is difficult to deal with. In philosophy...

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2. Coherentism: An Aporetic Approach to Empirical Inquiry

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pp. 9-28

An acknowledgment of contradictions in nature goes back to the pre-Socratics.1 And if not Hegel himself, then at any rate many of his followers maintained the realization of contradictions in the world.2 Marxists of various sorts have more recently been strident supporters...

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3. Counterfactual Conditionals

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pp. 29-48

Imaginative impossibilities do not figure only in discourse but have even come to play an increasingly prominent part in modern art. But of course they are most prominent in discursive speculation and especially in the context of speculative suppositions where they have...

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4. Variant Analyses of Counterfactuals and Problems of Probability

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pp. 49-73

There exist several influential approaches to the analysis of counterfactuals that are very different from the aporetic strategy of the preceding chapters. The earliest of these was first proposed in the 1920s by the English philosopher-logician...

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5. The Aporetics of Counterfactual History

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pp. 74-83

The primary aim of historical inquiry is to elucidate the past—to describe and to explain the course of past events. Now in describing we are, of course, engaged in a strictly factual discussion. Here there is—or should be—little room for fanciful speculation: Leopold von...

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6. Paradoxes

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pp. 84-101

Paradoxes are the very model of apories arising when we have a plurality of theses, each individually plausible in the circumstances but nevertheless in the aggregate constituting an inconsistent group. In this way, logical paradoxes always constituted aporetic situations...

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7. Philosophical Aporetics

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pp. 102-119

The big issues of philosophy regarding truth, justice, meaning, beauty, and the like were encapsulated in Immanuel Kant’s summary of the key questions regarding one’s place in the scheme of things as a rational free agent...

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8. The Dialectics of Philosophical Development

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pp. 120-132

Plausibility aporetics affords some useful insight into the developmental dialectics of philosophy. Aporetics affords a means for not only mapping the cartography of the battlefield of philosophical disputation, but also understanding and explaining...

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9. The Rationale of Aporetic Variation

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pp. 133-139

The definitive task of aporetics is consistency restoration. Confronted with an inconsistent set of otherwise plausible propositions in any context of deliberation, it is only sensible to seek to maintain rational consistency. Something has to give way in the interests...


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pp. 141-151


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pp. 153-157

Index of Names

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pp. 159-161

Back Flap

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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822973683
E-ISBN-10: 0822973685
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822960577
Print-ISBN-10: 0822960575

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2009