The Metaphysics of Paradox (vol. 2)

The Paradoxical Cognition

Bruno Bérard

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

With the paradoxality of what is to be known, corresponds a paradoxical mode of knowing.

Such modality, of course, is not new. It was already in the other side of analogical knowledge or within the platonic dialectic. It even already has a name: nescience, gnosis and even epignosis (St. Paul), which Nicholas of Cusa named, paradoxically, Learned Ignorance (docta ignorantia).

Above the eyes (Malebranche) or reserved to “intelligences that knows to close their eyes” (Dionysius the Areopagite), this was shown as being the term of philosophy.


  1. Introduction
  2. Part 1. Reason, Intelligence and Knowledge

    1. Chap. I. Subjectivity and Objectivity
    2. Chap. II. Reason or Intelligence?
    3. Chap. III. To Believe, to Know, to Cognize
  3. Part 2. The Paradoxical Knowledge

    1. Chap. IV. Paradoxes of Reason, Paradoxes of Intelligence
    2. Chap. V. Paradox and Analogy, Aporia or Dialectic?
    3. Chap. VI. Paradox and Mysticism, Gnoseology or Nescience?
    4. Chap. VII. Paradox and Eschatology, the Beyond of Being


Any intelligence, in the act by which it conceives what is the essence of a thing, experiences a semantic experience, an experience of meaning or of the intelligible, failing which it could not form the concept of it. The concept is not purely and simply abstracted from the thing, it must first of all make sense, constitute an intelligible unity, the intelligence recognizes it because it makes sense in it. There is no other “criterion of truth” than this recognition, this acquiescence of intelligence, its experience in accordance with its own intellectual nature.

This moment when intelligence passes from potency to act cannot be acquired, nor taught, nor demonstrated; it is intuitive, direct, it cannot be generated. At first glance, we can say that only the non-contradictory is intelligible (we will not understand a square-circle), but ultimately this is only the extrinsic condition of intellection. The act of intellection itself is the grasping of the essence in its “likeness” (suchness), in its own nature, its content as such; it is then an intuitive and synthetic act of contemplation, of the revelation of essence as meaning, of suchness as meaning. This is intrinsic intelligibility: what “makes sense” for intelligence, what awakens in it a “semantic echo”, what “says something to it”, what “speaks to it”.

[…] This semantic experience of suchness is so radical and so original that it escapes our attention. And yet, it is this suchness which allows us to semantically welcome all the forms of which we had no idea a priori, which we were unable to imagine, and which are revealed to us by sensory experience. It gives us the rose as ‘rose’ and, ‘although we cannot call the rose anything other than ‘rose’, our experience of it is perfectly distinct and recognizable in its unspeakable and obscure identity.

This is obscurity because what is given to intelligence is not the very being of the essence, but the essence as meaning. [V.2, ch. III, pp. 72-73]

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 2, confronting the paradox with reason and intelligence, shows that the paradox of what is to be known corresponds to a paradoxical modality of knowledge.


« Bruno Bérard e la “metafisica del paradosso” »

Bérard’s ‘metaphysics of paradox’ therefore pursues the following objectives: to go beyond all dichotomous ideas and conceptions of reality; to recognize by the ‘paradoxical method’ the limits of rationalism […] and of the sophistic vanishing of the so-called philosophies à la Kant and à la Hegel; giving up on having clear and distinct ideas in a formal and conceptual sense; to free oneself from the inconclusive intellectualist bewitchment […]; to 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).

See the review in Il Corriere Metapolitico
— Aldo La Fata, Website of Il Corriere Metapolitico


Associated Papers

Complementary Books