Aporia and the Limits of Reason and of Language in Damascius

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Aporiai occur in dialectical contexts, often in contexts of enquiry, as they paradigmatically do in the works of Plato and Aristotle.1 This has been demonstrated in other contributions to this volume. Since Damascius (c.460 CE to after 537 CE) was one of the greatest dialecticians of late ancient Platonism, second perhaps only to his famous third century predecessor Plotinus, it is not surprising that aporiai also play a crucial role in his writings. His major work, Aporiai and Solutions Concerning First Principles (De Principiis), is of particular interest if we want to study the use Damascius makes of aporiai.2 While 'Aporiai and Solutions' was a traditional genre at his time, and while the term 'aporia' in such titles often meant nothing more than problems quite generally, it often has a technical sense in Damascius that is familiar from the tradition: It designates an impasse that we find ourselves in if we have equally good reasons to believe both a certain claim and its negation.

I shall argue that Damascius' use of aporiai in the technical sense is new: Damascian aporiai are neither starting points of enquiry as in Plato and Aristotle, nor do they serve any sceptical purposes as in Pyrrhonism. Rather, their functions consist in revealing to us certain crucial epistemic limitations and, at the same time, in pointing to a reality that is beyond the grasp of language and reason. To show this, I will discuss the first aporia of Damascius' De Principiis.


George Karamanolis & Vasilis Politis




Cambridge University Press




9781107110151, 9781108340731, 9781316274293

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The Aporetic Tradition in Ancient Philosophy