The performative contradiction as an argumentative device: an analysis of its reach and scope

José Antonio Errázuriz


The notion of performative contradiction is widely used today - and not exclusively in philosophical contexts - as an argumentative device capable of unveiling the discursive inadmissibility of certain kinds of statements in a rather conclusive way. The growing popularity of this notion has not however been accompanied by a clear elucidation of its actual argumentative value (i.e. of the underlying reasons that make it a valuable argumentative device). The following article attempts to provide an initial analysis which could eventually lead to, or at least awake an interest in, the accomplishment of this philosophical task. This attempt consists in 1). a brief exposition of some ancestors of the performative contradiction (an exposition that should illustrate the intuition underlying this notion) and 2). a description that intends to answer the question: What exactly happens when we commit a performative contradiction? i shall try to make the case for a restricted use of the notion of performative contradiction. as such, a polemic posture towards its most prominent defender (Karl-Otto Apel) will be adopted.


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