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The Politics of Paradox: Metaphysics beyond 'Political Ontology'

Pabst, Adrian (2012) The Politics of Paradox: Metaphysics beyond 'Political Ontology'. Telos, 161 (4). pp. 99-119. ISSN 0090-6514. (doi:10.3817/1212161099) (KAR id:37463)


Since the onset of the Enlightenment much of modern thought has celebrated the end of metaphysics and the death of God. The project of ‘political ontology’, which combines post-metaphysical with post-theistic thinking, underpins the scientific rationalism that pervades contemporary philosophy and politics. Faced with the secular slide into skepticism, relativism and nihilism, this essay argues that the only genuine alternative to ‘political ontology’ is a metaphysical politics of paradox.

Philosophically, modernity and post-modernity invented and intensified the onto-theological science of transcendental ontology that can be traced to Scotus, Ockham, Machiavelli and Suárez. They bequeathed three currents – possibilism, transcendentalism and absolutism – that flow through figures such as Descartes, Wolff and Clauberg to Kant, Hegel and Comte.

Politically, all the modern binary opposites such as state versus market or left versus right are grounded in a logic of dualism – the aporia between unalterable nature (the originally violent ‘state of nature’) and human artifice (the social contract). This logic reduces real relations among people or between humanity and the natural world to nominal connections that take the form of constitutional-legal rights or economic-contractual ties. Such nominal connections undermine the social bonds of reciprocity and mutuality and the intermediary institutions of civil society upon which vibrant democracies and market economies depend.

By contrast, the alternative logic of paradox eschews the dualistic categories in favor of a ‘radical center’ – the metaphysical-political realm of real relations and the common good in which all can share through diverse forms of association that hold society together.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3817/1212161099
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2013 17:11 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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