Figure Name aporia
Source Silva Rhetoricae (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm); Ad Herennium 4.29.40 ("dubitatio"); Quintilian 9.2.19 ("dubitatio"); Aquil. 10 ("diaporesis," "addubitatio"); Melanch. IR C7v-C8r ("dubitatio" "aporia"); Sherry (1550) 54 ("aporia," "dubitatio," "dubitacion"); Peacham (1577) M1v; Putt. (1589) 234 ("aporia," "the doubtfull"); Day 1599 89 ("aporia," "dubitatio"); JG Smith (1665) ("aporia"); Garrett Epp (1994) ("dubitatio," "aporia"); Gibbons (1767) 134 ("aporia"); Peacham 1593; Vinsauf (1967) ("dubitatio"); Macbeth (1876) ("aporia," "pretended impossibility"); Holmes (1806) ("aporia"); De Mille (1882); Blackwall (1718); Bullinger (1898) ("aporia; or, doubt"); Norwood (1742) ("aporia")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms diaporesis, addubitatio, dubitatio, addubitation, doubht, the doubtfull, pretended impossibility, doubt
Etymology from Gk. aporos "without a passage"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Deliberating with oneself as though in doubt over some matter; asking oneself (or rhetorically asking one's hearers) what is the best or appropriate way to approach something. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Doubting: a figure whereby we deliberate, and as it were argue the case with our selves.; Aporia, Addubitatio, Doubting, or a want of counsel or advice; derived from [aporeo] animi pendeo, animi dubius sum, & nescio quid mihi sit faciendum; to be doubtful of minde, or not to know what is best to be said or done: or it is derived from [aporos] which signifies as it were not having a way or passage. Aporia is a figure whereby the Speaker sheweth that he doubteth, either where to begin for the multitude of matters, or what to do or say in some strange or ambiguous thing; and doth as it were argue the case with himself.(JG Smith)

3. Expression of uncertainty as to which of two or more words is most suitable. (Garrett Epp)

4. "a Figure whereby we express an hesitation where to begin our discourse, or a difficulty what to do in some arduous affair, or what to resolve upon in some critical emergency." (Gibbons)

5. Aporia is a forme of speech by which the speaker sheweth that he doubteth, either where to begin for the multitude of matters, or what to do or say, in some strange and doubtfull thing. (Peacham)

6. (Dubitatio) If a mode of expression both easy and adorned is desired, set aside all the techniques of the dignified style and have recourse to means that are simple, but of a simplicity that does not shock the ear by its rudeness. Here are the rhetorical colours with which to adorn your style: (Vinsauf)

7. Aporia, or Pretended Impossibility, is a doubting of a special kind; a not knowing where to begin or what to say, on account of the confusing wealth of matter. (Macbeth)

8. Aporia, in words and actions, doubts; And with itself, what may be best, disputes. (Holmes)

In the first place, there is that kind of artifice by which the speaker represents himself as in a state of doubt, ignorance, hesitation, or the like. (De Mille)

10. Doubt expresses the Debate of the Mind with it self upon a pressing Difficulty. A Man in a severe Strait and Perplexity first takes up one Resolution, and then lays it aside; after thinks another Method more convenient, and then changes again. He is toss'd to and fro with strong Tides of Passion; and at last, after terrible Struggles, scarce fixes upon a final Determination. (Blackwall)

11. An Expression of Feeling by way of Doubt... The figure is used when the speaker expresses himself as though he were at a loss what course to pursue; or when we express a doubt as to what we ought to think or say or do. (Bullinger, 905)

12. APORIA. Aporia, a word derived from the Greek, (aporeo,) to be doubtful in mind, when we reason and consider with ourselves, as if we were uncertain either what to say or do. (Norwood, 94)


1. Where shall I begin to describe her wisdom? In her knowledge of facts? In her ability to synthesize diverse matters? In her capacity to articulate complex ideas simply? (Silva Rhetoricae)

3. How, a page?
Or dead or sleeping on him? But dead rather .... (Cymb 4.2 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

2. What shall I doe? whither shall I flie? whom shall I blame? what shall I pretend? (JG Smith)

4. "This Figure frequently occurs in Scripture. The following instances taken from it shall suffice: 1. Cor.xi. 22. 'What shall I say unto you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.'" (Gibbons)

5. Cicero for Roscius; Of what shall I first complaine O Judges? or where shall I first begin? Of what or of whome shall I call for helpe, of the immortall gods, or of the Romane people? or shall I most pitifully crave your defence, who have the highest authorie? (Peacham)

5. Another example of the same Author: whether he tooke them from his fellowes more impudently, gave them to an harlot more lasciviously, removed them from the Romane people more wickedly, or altered them more presumptuosly, I cannot wel declare. (Peacham)

6. If I call you holy, or holiness itself, or fountain of holiness, or add still more, you are greater yet. (Vinsauf)

7. An excellent instance in Paul's Letter to the Hebrews, when he breaks forth, toward the close of that grand enumeration of Heb.xi., into this cry:
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets." (Macbeth)

8. What shall I do? Must I be asked, or must I ask? Then what shall I ask? (Holmes)

10. What shall I do? What Succour can I find?
Become a Suppliant to Hiarba's Pride?
And take my Turn to court and be deny'd?
Shall I with this ungrateful Trojan go?
Forsake an Empire, and attend a Foe?
Then shall I seek alone the churlish Crew;
Or with my Fleet their flying Sails pursue?
Rather with Steel thy guilty Breast invade,
And take the Fortune thou thy self hast made. (Blackwall)

11. Matt. 21:25, 26. -"The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet." (Bullinger, 906)

12. Luke 16. 3. Then the unjust steward said within himself, what shall I do? For my Lord taketh away from me the stewardship, I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed. Thus the steward debates with himself what course of life is most suitable to his own humour and disposition, and that labour or poverty were equally disagreeable. (Norwood, 94-95)

Kind Of Repetition
Part Of
Related Figures correctio, dialogismus, erotema, figures of consultation
Notes "This figure most properly serveth to deliberation, and to note the perplexitie of the minde, as when a declaration is necessarily required, and the knowledge either through multitude of matters, or ambiguitie of things can direct nothing, or say very litle." (Peacham)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No