The Metaphysics of Paradox (vol. 1)

Volume 1: Paradox and limits of knowledge

Bruno Bérard

The book is in French – here a translation of key elements in English.

Discovering the wall of paradoxes onto which knowledge—about the universe, man, society or God—bumps, one understands the scientific limits of knowledge, as demonstrated by the physicist Hervé Zwirn or philosophically indicated by Jean Borella.

So philosophy takes back its rights. Distinguishing reason—limited by its object and the logic that governs it—from the intellect that surpasses it, one realizes how paradox can help reason to admit its limits and give intelligence its edification to what surpasses it.


  1. Exergue: A Barber Thought
  2. Introduction: For a Metaphysics of Paradox
  3. Part 1. Paradoxes

    1. Ch. I. What is a Paradox?
    2. Ch. II. Cosmological Paradoxes
    3. Ch. III. Anthropological Paradoxes
    4. Ch. IV. Theological Paradoxes
    5. Ch. V. Sociological Paradoxes
  4. Part 2. The Limits of Knowledge

    1. Ch. VI. Evidence is Belief
    2. Ch. VII. The Limits of Knowledge
    3. Ch. VIII. Truth or Reality?


A Barber was Thinking

It’s getting up, it’s still dark; the paradoxes begin! Who then gets up, all the cells of his body having been renewed (paradox of the boat of Theseus*1 or Chisholm*)? And shouldn’t it be day at night (Olbers’ paradox*)?

He does not say hello to his wife because he is not married, arranged marriages no longer exist and free marriages being more subject to divorce than arranged marriages (Toqueville* paradox). He does not shave, because, as a barber himself, he has been foolishly defined as the one who (only) shaves those who do not shave themselves (Barber’s paradox*). Moreover, he is a good barber and, to become one, he did like his master, he did not imitate anyone (paradox of Consuelo* Casula). [Foreword, p. 13]

A Classification of Paradoxes: Paralogy, Paracosmia, Paradoxia

Whether the aim is to contradict intuition or logic, to entertain or to mark progress in the sciences, not all paradoxes are approached in the same way. Following Delmas-Rigoutsos, we can distinguish them according to the source of the contradiction expressed:

  1. If the incompatible realities presented are undeniable, but specious reasoning is the cause of the contradiction, we’re dealing with a logical paradox, a paralogy (or paralogism); for example, the light-hearted joke: Socrates is mortal, the horse is mortal, therefore Socrates is a horse. The apparent demonstration that leads to the contradiction has in fact not taken place. While paralogy is a logical fallacy, sophistry, which is also a logical fallacy, differs in its intention to deceive. It was the struggle of Greek philosophers against the sophists, who taught the art of convincing by any means, that led Aristotle to found logic (his Organon) and define the types and forms of valid reasoning. In addition to this inaugural period (in the West), paradoxes of this kind fuelled the vast logical investigations of medieval thinkers (under the name of “insolubilia”) and, in the 20th century, those of philosophers of language.
  2. If the reasoning is irreproachable, and the source of the contradiction lies in the bringing together of two incompatible realities, then we’re dealing with a cognitive paradox, a paracosmia; for example, Olbers*’s “sky on fire”, who is astonished that the sky is black at night. It is this type of paradox, often the assertion of a counter-intuitive fact, that has always flourished in the sciences, so much so that they are often referred to as scientific paradoxes. However, it should not be thought that these types of paradoxes emerge like sudden illuminations in the face of the flaw in an established theory; they accompany, and follow, theoretical developments, and are, moreover, as Delmas-Rigoutsos points out, “generally disseminated with a solution” and an explicit theoretical frame of reference.
  3. If the realities presented and the reasoning are all correct, but no reasonable conclusion can be reached, we can speak of a paradoxia, or a logical dilemma, or simply a dilemma (or even an antinomy). The most emblematic example of a paradoxia is the Liar’s paradox*. Although it only really acquired this status in modern times, the first written trace of the discussion of a logical dilemma can already be found in Aristotle, with reference to an earlier discussion. Like paralogies, dilemmas have occupied thinkers in the three great periods of logic (Antiquity, the Scholastic Middle Ages, the 20th and 21st centuries), with discussions starting all over again “quasi tabula rasa”. [Chap. 1, pp. 30-32]


  1. The book provides a consistant glossary where any quoted paradox -marked by *- is properly described[]

Notice of publication

Why is there something rather than nothing? (Leibniz) Life is death! (Claude Bernard) One God in three persons! (Christianity) No one is supposed to be ignorant of the law, but no one can know it.

Paradoxes, irreducible contradictions, are everywhere; as soon as we are born to die and as soon as we try to understand the universe, man, society or God. This paradox of things, and of logic yet supposed to help think them, refers to the only way of knowing (notably scientific or cognitive paradoxes) and sets the impassable limit of all rational knowledge.

This is why this Metaphysics of paradox intends to propose a paradoxical modality of knowing. Distinguishing from reason, the intelligence that goes beyond it, such a mode of knowing appears on the other side of analogical knowledge, is illustrated in the Platonic dialectic and, going beyond all conceptualism, comes up against the paradox of an absolute non-contradiction.

Volume 1 presents some characteristic paradoxes of the world, of man, of God, of society, as well as the scientific limits of knowledge.

— L'Harmattan

The Metaphysics of paradox by Bruno Bérard

He gets up, it’s still dark; paradoxes appear. Who gets up with every cell in his body renewed (Theseus’s or Chisholm’s boat paradox)? And shouldn’t it be day at night (Olbers’ paradox)?

Paradoxes are all around us, and seem to bring our explanations of the universe, man, society and God to a halt.

It’s the paradoxical nature of everything we come to know. Scientific (or cognitive) paradoxes confirm this, often resolved but presenting us with new ones. Logic, itself often paradoxical, cannot get us past them all. Paradox is therefore the only way to know, constituting the insurmountable limit of rational knowledge.

In response to the paradoxical nature of things, this Metaphysics of Paradox proposes a paradoxical way of knowing.

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— Cyril Arnaud,

A fascinating new study by Bruno Bèrard: The Metaphysics of Paradox.


In these pages, I’ve tried to show that at the end of all strictly philosophical research, there is always a paradox.


By discovering the paradoxical nature of knowledge of the universe, man, society and God, we finally understand the scientific limits of knowledge, as physicist Hervé Zwirn and philosopher Jean Borella have amply demonstrated in their studies.
Philosophy can thus regain its rights. By distinguishing between reason, limited by its object and the logic that governs it, and intelligence, which transcends it, we realize how paradox can help reason to admit its limits and further on uplift intelligence.

The paradoxical nature of knowledge is matched by a paradoxical mode of knowing. This mode, of course, is not new. It already existed on the reverse side of analogical knowledge or within Platonic dialectics, and could be called nescience, gnosis, epignosis in Saint Paul and, paradoxically, learned ignorance in Nicholas of Cusa. Taking place above the eyes (Malebranche), or thanks to an intelligence that knows, on the contrary, how to close the eyes (Saint Dionysius the Areopagite), it was thus already announced as the ultimate end of all philosophy.

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— Aldo La Fata, Il Corriere Metapolitico


« Bruno Bérard e la “metafisica del paradosso” ».

Bérard’s ‘metaphysics of paradox’ thus pursues the following objectives: to go beyond all dichotomous ideas and conceptions of reality; to recognize, through the ‘paradoxical method’, the limits of rationalism […] and of the sophistical fainting of so-called philosophies à la Kant and à la Hegel; to give up having clear and distinct ideas in a formal and conceptual sense; to free oneself from inconclusive intellectualist bewitchment [… ]; strive to understand that there is a conformity of intelligence to things and a conformability of things to intelligence, which is essentially the conformity of things to the absolute intelligence on which they depend. (translated from Italian)

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See the complete text (translated)
— Aldo La Fata,, January 14, 2020.


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