Performative contradiction

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A performative contradiction (German: performativer Widerspruch) arises when the propositional content of a statement contradicts the presuppositions of asserting it. An example of a performative contradiction is the statement "I am dead" because the very act of proposing it presupposes the actor is alive.

Usage in philosophy[edit]

Solipsism is often held to be a performative contradiction if stated. If not stated it is usually considered an example of the normative application of qui tacet consentire videtur (He who remains silent seems to consent).[1] Jürgen Habermas and related philosophers point out that statements spoken during justificatory argumentation carry additional presuppositions and so certain statements are performative contradictions in this context. Habermas claims that post-modernism's epistemological relativism suffers from a performative contradiction. Hans-Hermann Hoppe claims in his theory of argumentation ethics that arguing against self-ownership results in a performative contradiction.[2]

Jaakko Hintikka more rigorously fleshed out the notion of performative contradiction in analyzing Descartes' famous cogito ergo sum argument, concluding that cogito ergo sum relies on performance rather than logical inference.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bolt, Robert. A Man For All Seasons.
  2. ^ Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (September 1988). "The Ultimate Justification of Private Property" (PDF). Liberty. 1: 20.
  3. ^ Hintikka, Jaakko (1962). "Cogito, Ergo Sum: Inference or Performance?". The Philosophical Review. 71 (1): 3–32. JSTOR 2183678.

Further reading[edit]