Term coined by Edward O. Wilson
to identify a problem central to the postmodernist
doctrine of deconstruction
. Wilson called it this simply because he was referring to Derrida's
writings, but it can easily be applied to any of the postmodern
According to many postmodernists, the meaning of a literary work (or any piece of intellectual property, come to that) is entirely independent of the author's intent, their background, or anything else existing in what we would call objective reality. This means the text is completely open to reinterpretation by anyone to mean just about anything they want it to.
However, this presents a problem: this idea itself (or rather, the text of the idea as written by Derrida and others) is open to reinterpretation. So if this premise of deconstruction is correct, we can't be sure that the people arguing it mean what we think they mean, since according to the premise itself, it's all open subjective analysis. By the same token, even if it is what they mean, there's no reason why we need to accept it - after all, reality is what you make of it, right?
To quote Wilson, "This puzzle... is similar to the Cretan paradox (a Cretan says "all Cretans are liars"). It awaits solution, though one need not feel any great sense of urgency in the matter."
Source: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
I am aware this is not truly a logical paradox
. If anything, it's a reductio ad absurdum
: If the deconstruction principle is true, it must also be false, which is logically absurd. However, I didn't coin the term, Wilson did; and while he may not have named it properly, the point is still valid.