Breaking Down Paradox with Examples
Paradox is a seemingly self-contradictory statement, but nevertheless appears to be true.
In terms of etymology, paradox is derived from the Greek paradoxon, literally means “against opinion,” or “contrary to expectation”. A paradox usually has two parallelOpens in new window elements that appear to be logically inconsistent and yet contain a truth. For example, the Socratic paradox:
- “No one does wrong willingly, but is unwillingly that all who do wrong do wrong”
Paradoxes are typically known to engender shocking effects, because one element denies the other while each is based in different reasoning.
Paradox functions rhetorically by forcing the audience to confront beyond the literal meaning of the statements to find a deeper, usually more philosophical meaning which will reconcile the inconsistency that is posed as consistent. The incongruity is meant to be uncomfortable, spurring insight by probing habitual assumptions.
To analyze a paradox, the prerequisite would be to identify the contexts or dimensions in which statement or element does hold an explication of why two conflicting statements are proposed.
William Wordsworth's paradox “the child is the father of the man” may seem nonsense out of context, but upon closer reflection, the reader can conclude that childhood experiences become the basis for the shaping of who we are as adults, so the child, in a sense, fathers the man who he will become.