Not Contradiction But Paradox

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

― Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy

“One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.”

― Soren Kierkegaard

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

― Niels Bohr

“As a small child, I felt in my heart two contradictory feelings, the horror of life and the ecstasy of life.”

― Charles Baudelaire, My Hear Laid Bare


Classical dualistic ontology (the objective-subjective divide)—tilted to the axiological primacy of the objective (objectivism) over the subjective—advances what it holds as a truism that objective reality is basically consistent within itself. If we find inconsistencies in it, these are not in reality but in the way we look at and describe reality in human terms (the subjective).

However, looking at reality is not a unilateral act; it is perspectival in a situation of innumerable perspectives. On this basis, a specific description of reality is actually that of a perspective of reality. In other words, what is out there (the objective) is epistemically well-placed and the things that constitute it cannot in anyway contradict themselves. It is what is in one’s mind (the subjective) that creates contradictions . . . stultifications. . . clashing notions . . . contrasting opinions . . . irreconcilable differences . . .

But what is reality in this sense? What is the meaningfulness of things “out there” which are said to be constitutive of the so-called “objective reality”? How do we get to the point of tentatively determining that those things “out-there” are epistemically “well-placed”? What ontological agency has determined once and for all the “consistency” of reality within itself?

Hence, “objective reality” qua objective is meaningless. Reality as a general notion becomes meaningful only via the operation of the subjective: the human mind whose “reality” is characterized by a continuous stream of consciousness that interacts with what is “out there” and in the process makes reality a world of experiences in all their varied forms and substances . . . at times consistent . . . at times contradictory . . . at times harmonious . . . at times clashing.

In this light, there is no stopping in the recurrent rehearsal of certain issues of socio-political importance at different moments of historic time. There is therefore the echoes of the past that do not just die down because of the reflective and critical characters of generations that come and go amidst realities that linger and dominate certain cultural persistences that constitute a people’s determined contrary advocacies and generate seemingly endless debates among interest groups. And these very echoes make the past present. Through these reveberations, we witness the “presence of the past” (with apologies to the holistic biologist Rupert Sheldrake who titled one of his controversial books the same).

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 7 May 2020

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