The self-refuting paradox and the conditions of sociological thought

Jordan, Tim (1997) The self-refuting paradox and the conditions of sociological thought. Sociological Review, 45 (3). pp. 488-511. ISSN 0038-0261

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Modernity and postmodernity have formed an important framework for debate in sociological theory. The often confrontational nature of the debate has obscured key conclusions but these can be outlined by considering an argument often used by modernists against postmodernists, called the self-refuting paradox. This argument takes the form ‘the claim that there is no such thing as the Rational is itself a rational claim and so refutes itself’. First, the notions of self-refutation and self-reference are separated. It is then noted that the result of the self-refuting paradox is neither the loss of modernity's key categories, as claimed by postmodernists, or the failure of the postmodern project, as claimed by modernists. Instead, both sides are shown to succeed and fail; forms of legitimation that previously underlay modernity's thought fail and the strong forms of postmodern claims, such as there are no universals, also fail. The result of this analysis is that attention should be paid to the nature of universals, truths and norms, rather than disputing their existence. These arguments are pursued first at a general level and then in relation to the three key concepts of difference, truth and universality.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Sociology and Political Science
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Music
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Depositing User: Sarah Maddox
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2014 13:41
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 08:18

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