Тощенко Жан Терентьевич
Член-корреспондент Российской академии наук,
Доктор философских наук, профессор, главный редактор Журнала РАН «Социологические исследования»,
Декан и зав. Кафедрой теории и истории социологии социологического факультета Российского государственного гуманитарного университета
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Russian State University for Humanities, Corresponding-member  RAS (Russian Academy of Sciences)




Abstract: The purpose of this article is to raise the very unusial social problem – paradoxes of social consciousness and behavior. Paradoxes always exist in the life of humankind. For the first time attention to paradoxes had been paid in the Ancient Creece, than in the Middle Ages. In the New History the many interesting notes were made by philosopher I.Kant (1724-1804), physicist  I.Newton (1643-1727), mathematician G.Kantor (1845-1918), philosopher and mathematician B.Russell (1872-1970). Hence paradoxes of social consciousness are inherent not only to previous stages of historical development – science and social practice have been facing them at modern time. Paradoxes have the tendency to increase and to be concerned the most spheres of social life.

Sociological approach to paradoxes permits to reveal their manifestations in real life, in process of realizing these or other kinds of activity, for paradoxicality is inherent not only in process of cognition, but also in reality itself. But especially evident, sharp and volumetric this paradoxicality becomes for societies with an unstable development, those in a state of instability, amorphy, uncertainty with regard to vector of historical process. In these conditions paradoxes of consciousness and behavior become massive, universal, give rise to freakish combinations of good and evil, honor and intent, fidelity and treachery, reckless innovation and obstinate traditionalism.

Summing up the above it is possible to say that under paradoxes are meant:

а) opinion or a statement - strange, deviating from generally accepted ones, contradicting (sometimes only at the first sight) the common sense. b) phenomenon that seems improbable (or an improbable, surprising case). c) process that, when realized, leads to a result, directly opposite to the earlier proclaimed purposes or at least in principle qualitatively differing from initial plans or intentions.


Keywords: paradox, social consciousness, behavior, contradictions.




Full-scale analysis of contemporary social consciousness is impossible to carry out without considering a special groups of contradictions – paradoxes, number of which grows immeasurably under conditions of radical changes in the society that comes to experience a critical stage in its development and functioning. History repeatedly testifies that during social upheavals, revolutions and critical events paradoxicality of consciousness and behavior becomes intensified beyond all expectations, above any usual measure. And it is not surprising. Social and individual consciousness cannot be reconstructed like to a lathe, at once, immediately after occurring events. Mankind is not capable to escape from itself, from experiences that had been accumulated, from what it knew before, what it confessed, what it was guided by, what it wanted to achieve and to avoid.

Under these conditions social consciousness is exposed to a powerful influence of new public requirements, changing social, economic and political relations. The change/replacement of public purposes brings about a turmoil in popular moods and orientations, a reassessment of previously professed ideals or at least their radical renewal.

At the same time due to a big inertia of social consciousness it continues to retain old dogmas, established orientations and preferences and a previously set, though deformed value system. Therefore it is quite logical that social consciousness under impact of external and internal factors experiences cardinal changes with resulting product of paradoxicality in the thinking, cognition and evaluations of phenomena and processes that surround a person. Hence, paradoxes of social consciousness are inherent not only to the present stage of historical development - science and practice had been facing them already at previous stages of their existence.



Before proceeding to sociological interpretation of the essence of paradoxes, to revealing causes for their emergence and prevalence, forms of their manifestation some conclusions and results should be reminded gained by philosophical thought at previous stages in the development of scientific knowledge.

Paradoxes always exist in the life of humankind. They personify a certain class of contradictions, assuming special forms, kinds and features of their manifestation at various stages of historical development.

For the first time attention to paradoxes had been paid in the Ancient Greece when they had designated contradictions in arguments arising due to observance of thier formal logic correctness. Their treatment is close to the concept of "aporia" (Greek aporia - difficulty, bewilderment), essentially designating a difficulty in resolving position arising out of contradictions in the arguments. An aporia characterizes quite often a contradiction between the data of observation (experience, research) and their mental analysis. A classical example of an aporia are considered to be paradoxes of Zeno of Elea (about 490-430 BC) in his reasoning about Achilles and a turtle. The essence here is following: Achilles pursuing the turtle ten times faster than turtle never catches it up, for at that moment, when he reaches the spot where the turtle was, it will be moved ahead 1/10th of that distance and when Achilles will pass this 1/10th, the turtle be ahead 1/100th, etc.

Specificity of this paradox consists in the fact that two processes are identified and considered coterminous in it – physical movement and logic sequence of its component parts. Identification of what has taken place with that not having taken place breeds an obvious contradiction, and being logically irreproachable, it has that fault that it is incompatible with application of mathematics to phenomena of nature [1].

In this period (in the sixth century B.C.) Confucianism appeared. It formulated  some problems of paradoxes, which were reflected in Ten Discourses by a Paradoxical Man. In this conception there was the attempt to achieve the correlation between the Good and the Evil in human life.

A significant contribution to understanding the nature of paradoxes is introduced by studying phenomenon of ataraxia (from Greek ataraxia – absence of excitements, or coolness). The term coined by Epicure (341-270 a.c.) means an ideal emotional state which a person should aspire to. Epicure treated ataraxia as a salvation from fear before the god, death and the next world, as a self-elimination from public and state affairs. This condition can be achieved by restricting consumption, by moderating pleasures, regularity of life and activities. But this very appeal to rejecting excitements, to coolness in attitudes to misfortunes and difficulties of life had constantly contrasted with the real position of individual in the society resulting in these or other collisions including those that are hard to resolve. Only in exceptional cases individual persons manage to observe this principle in consciousness and behavior. And for the majority of those, who had professed this attitude, the given condition had turned into a situation when reality forced them to deviate from the proclaimed principle and to act in a way dictated by circumstances or to enter into an insolvable conflict with them.

History of mankind always testified to tragic dilemma of a person’s involvement into public life and attempts to abstract from it. Nobody managed to practically achieve the state of ataraxia, but aspiration to that has caused many collisions expressed both in the real and in the imaginary paradoxes.

In the Middle Ages philosophical thought had started to comprehend an antinomy (from Greek antinomia – contradiction of a law to itself, a contradiction inside a law), designating connection of two opposite statements in the course of argumentation, when each of them can be equally proved. It should be noted that the concept of "antinomy" had an original legal sense meaning a contradiction between two laws or inside one law. In the Codex of Justinian (535) the case is foreseen, when a law conflicts with itself, and this collision is termed antinomy. For the first time this term occurs in "Philosophical dictionary" of R.Goklenius published in 1613.

However, concept of antinomy assumes philosophical meaning only with I.Kant (1724 - 1804). Contradictions are inevitably born in our mind, so Kant, because concept of the absolute, infinite experience, applicable only to the world of things in themselves (thesis), is applied to the world of experience where only the passing, final and causal (antithesis) is present. He had formulated four antinomies: 1. The world has a beginning in time and is limited in space - the world has no beginning in time and is infinite in space. 2. Any complex substance (thing) consists of simple parts – none of the things consists of simple parts. 3. The laws of nature are not enough to explain all phenomena - Everything in the world can be explained only with the help of natural laws. 4. An unconditionally necessary essence is inherent in the world as its cause - Neither in the world, nor outside of the world is there an absolutely unconditionally essence as its cause.

All these statements are demonstrable and are not demonstrable to the same extent. These contradictions, according to Kant, appear only because human mind had ventured to start up researching things existing in themselves ("Ding in sich"). But since each of these positions might be equally substantiated Kant had concluded that capabilities of human mind are limited and it is unable to penetrate the essence of things.

Kant’s antinomies had a considerable impact on development of science, for they promoted specification of the logical bases of mathematics in 19th century, on the one hand, and led to formation of Hegel\\'s dialectics, on the other. G. Cantor (1845-1918) has attempted to overcome well known difficulties in the foundations of mathematics after discoveries by I. Newton (1643-1727) and G. Leibniz (1646-1716) of the differential and integral calculus on the basis of the theory of sets. By that time there occurred great crises in the bases of the mathematics caused by discoveries of irrational numbers and infinitesimal quantities. However, Cantor himself had found out a number of paradoxes in his theory what had brought him over to mathematical logic [2]. Later, paradox discovered in 1902 by B. Russell (1872-1970) about the set of all normal sets has shown, that both positive and negative answers are equally demonstrable. It were discoveries by Cantor in 1893 and by Russell in 1902 of the paradox series of actualizing infinite sets has caused the third great crisis in mathematics continuing this day ( Arnold V.I., 1999, p.556).

A whole galaxy of outstanding mathematicians and philosophers (Gilber, Brauer etc.) have devoted their studies and the whole of their lives to solving paradoxes of the theory of sets. However, if we delve into the essence of the problem, as professor A.A. Zenkin writes, the paradox of the actualization of the infinite sets is nothing but an attempt of interpreting the well-known paradox of "liar" authored by wise man of Ancient Greece Eubulides (IV century a.c.): "I assert that I am a liar". Am I a liar? If I am, then I am lying when I assert that I am a liar, hence, I am not a liar. But if I am not a liar I am saying truth, when I assert that I am a liar, hence, I am a liar".

As historical science testifies, cumulative mind of humanity, including naturally science, failed for more than already 2600 years to find an answer to this "child’s" question: "Who am I, at last, a liar or not a liar?". It is also possible to write it down shortly and symbolically (here L= LIAR): IF "L”, THEN not – “L", but IF "not - L", THEN “L" (2. Zenkin A., 2000, p.448).

Considering this class of contradictions, we pay attention to the fact that paradoxes analyzed by scientific thought characterize the contradictions in arguments and logic conclusions, asking to specify and substantiate the truth of opinion, statement, proposition, as well as to look for ways of eliminating them. These paradoxes of the theory of sets cannot already be refuted by simple reference to facts of reality or by attributing them to a category of scholastic philosophical constructs unrelated to science.

English mathematician and logician F. Ramsay has offered in 1926 the first (and one that found widest dissemination) classification of paradoxes dividing them in two groups: logic paradoxes (paradox of Russell, paradox of Cantor) and semantic paradoxes. Semantic paradoxes have come to form a special group only at the beginning of 20th century, when the theory of cognition has faced necessity to explain and interpret a new class of contradictions. A semantic paradox in plain language looks, for example, so: “A regimental barber shaves those, and only those soldiers and officers of his regiment, which do not shave themselves. Should he shave himself?". This statement is true, if its falsity is assumed, but from this, in turn, follows, that it is false. That is, this statement, if formulated with the appropriate specifications, cannot be considered as a statement at all (each statement, by definition, is either true, or false). In other words, an answer to this question turns out to be both true and false at the same time.

Semantic paradoxes are based also on the fact, that many words have various meanings, and in each concrete case only an analysis of semantic links makes it possible to reject the irrelevant ones. In routine speech we frequently ignore some thus caused requirements of accuracy what might lead to a paradox. For example, following statements are considered to be true: "Each person is mortal " (i.e. it can die) and "each person can die only once". But the word "person" can designate person both alive and dead bringing about a paradox: as true is considered that (a person) Napoleon had died. Hence, he cannot die and that is why he is immortal what contradicts the first of above statements. Solution of this paradox is achieved by closer defining of the sense of word "person" in first of these statements: every person, who is not dead is mortal, hence question of following up semantic links and "incidental" meanings of words should belong to questions elaborated within the foundations of mathematics, for both this and all paradoxes discussed above are among fundamentals in the theory of sets.

A distinction between the logic and the semantic paradoxes is conditional enough because many paradoxes can be formulated both by means of semantic terms ("true”, “false", “designates" etc.), and without them.

To special types of the paradoxes is it possible to attribute unusual, not cliche-like statements, which then are being considered as winged expressions. For example, many know definition of traditional philosophy as "a neutral ground between science and religion" given by B. Russell in his "A History of Western Philosophy". In his later book "The Art of Philosophizing" Russell specifies this definition: "philosophy represents reflection on such subjects, an exact knowledge of which is so far impossible" (Russel B., 1999). If consistent conclusions from his philosophy of the logic analysis have brought the logic positivism to denying traditional philosophy, though Russell himself has not gone so far as his followers, for he had had a more sober feeling for reality and disgust to dogmatic philosophy of all sorts. In this respect he was alone among his adherents, being a strongly pronounced non-conformist.

Problems of paradoxicality have gradually become a subject of analysis by other sciences. We shall not list paradoxes that have been found out in other spheres of scientific knowledge, we shall consider what new is brought to theory of cognition by discovery of paradox phenomenon and what are chances to prevent and solve paradoxes.

As to theoretical knowledge, here by means of paradoxicality phenomenon concept of the proof is specified. To Eubulides is also attributed paradox about a "heap": one grain cannot form a heap, if n grains cannot form a heap, it can not be formed by n + 1 as well. However, empiric experience proves, that this situation is feasible, and under certain stipulated conditions a heap nevertheless arises. It is requirement of accuracy (in daily life quite often ignored) that makes definition of proof more precise. A substantiation of the system of the proofs makes it possible to overcome an apparent contradiction (paradox), but only under observance of certain logic and methods to confirm the truth.

Experience in eliminating and resolving paradoxes shows that there are here no universal avenues. There are some achievements in mathematics and logic (theory of types, distinction of languages of different levels). There is also historical experience of resolving contradictions in destinies of certain nations, solving legal, moral and religious problems. These facts testify to capability of in-depth (including latent) knowledge to uncover the essence of this or that phenomenon or process and to formulate ways for resolving emerging paradoxes. At the same time none of the ways for solving the given contradictions, including mathematical methods, can claim a complete adequacy, comparability and harmonization with the real process. Moreover, none of the formalized ways for analysis and solution of the uncovered contradictions might claim for a general efficiency or uniqueness. In this connection role is augmented of nonmathematical methods, which more and more gain a growing importance in resolution of paradoxicality problems.

In other words, paradoxes – or rather, knowledge about them - were and are basically a reflection of contradictions in the process of cognition, for they correspond only slightly with the world of experience, they are not considered and not analyzed in relation to reality, public life, process of human activity at all stages of historical development.



Creation of not contradictory concepts and theories is a major task of science. But no less significant problem is searching an answer to the question of essence and contents of paradoxes, reasons of their emergence and ways of their existence in process of individual’s cognitive and transforming activity. Posing the question in this way we collide with necessity, on the one hand, to use the knowledge about paradoxes accumulated by philosophical science, on the other - to admit limited character of available knowledge, complexity (and sometimes even impossibility) of its use in social reality. Therefore, in our opinion, in addition to F. Ramsay\\'s classification, which basically was limited to the theory of cognition, it is feasible to define another class of paradoxes, namely paradoxes of life – paradoxes of the vital circumstances, paradoxes in consciousness and behavior of social groups and of personality (3).

At the same time it is obvious, that also this classification does not reflect rich variety of proliferation of paradoxes in real life. As a matter of fact, this classification accentuates: first, difficulties, contradictions that surface in theory (logic) of cognition; second, on the situations taking shape in interrelations between person and society, person and a social group; between people, while practically embracing that group of paradoxes that is inherent in human being as an individual.

Therefore is quite pertinent to consider paradoxes both on their levels and in the spheres of social organization of society. They may characterize situation in society as a whole, in its certain regions, in industrial and other structures, in life of separate groups of people and in life of every person. Not a lesser importance deserves analysis of paradoxes designating basic and not basic kinds of individual’s activity – economic, political, social, cultural, etc. Paradoxes arise also in the course of interrelation of individual with nature, of individual with economy, of individual with politics.

If not all the paradoxes in general were to analyze, but only those related to consciousness and behavior of people, following has to be stressed: specifically sociological approach to this phenomenon consists first of all in the fact, that the above approach corresponds not so much with theory and logic of cognition, not so much with mental conclusions, as with real life, with process of both functioning public structures and vital activities of a person. Analysis of real situation in Russia shows that paradoxicality of consciousness became an integral part of everyday life.

Paradoxicality of behavior and consciousness is constantly shown by the fact that both public institutes and many people proclaim or declare some goals and vital orientations, realizing in practice other, sometimes opposite attitudes. Paradoxicality of behavior is particularly evident in specific life situations, when practical actions deny publicly and verbally proclaimed opinions.

Now even more often a new class of paradoxes has to be encountered, when people not deliberately, not by malicious intent might personify most surprising phenomenon - the same person at the very same time internalizes quite opposite and sometimes simply mutually exclusive evaluations, attitudes, reference points and intentions. As though a person in same time runs from itself and from society in opposite directions. Our disoriented contemporary quite often, without noticing it, professes truths resisting each other and, what is amazing, tends to trust mutually exclusive opinions and judgements, relies on them quite sincerely often not noticing this blatant discrepancy.

At the same time such vital collisions are also possible, when varying strategies of behavior might be true, though contradicting each other, and may in real life claim autonomous, independent existence. Like Kant’s antinomies, real behavior patterns can at the same time be both demonstrable and not demonstrable.

Latent forms of paradoxes are also observable in such specific form of manifest consciousness and behavior as anomie. This is a state of people, of individual, when meaning of social norms and prescriptions is lost, moreover, this loss might mean a tragedy leading to deviant, illegal behavior down to acts against self (suicide). Condition of anomie shows also, that persons lack patterns and standards of behavior for comparing own actions with those of other people. This puts them in position of uncertainty and de-socialization, reducing the feeling of solidarity with specific social group. And at last, anomie means discrepancy between universal tasks or expectations proclaimed in the given society and means to achieve them. These tasks being unattainable, individual consciousness is driven to condition of an acute discrepancy, paradoxicality, impossibility to internalize, comprehend and accept such situation in society, inducing to illegal ways of their achievement.

It is this very state of anomie that results in such paradoxical situations, when under conditions of society that had professed to create preconditions and conditions for rational development and functioning of individuals and social relations, simultaneously a feeling is born of feebleness, isolation, emptiness, hopelessness of life, apathy that in turn may result in deviant or extremist behavior.

Under such circumstances various forms of paradoxes are possible, when a person confuses due with real, necessary with casual, desirable with compulsive etc. etc. E. Durkheim (1858-1917), who had introduced the term "anomie" in sociology to explain those contradictions, which keep arising in societies, had emphasized that analysis, besides other things, is a step for preparing changes in a society, because individual cannot endlessly suffer, accept unsatisfactory condition and not to nurture plans (quite often spontaneous) for changing existing situation.

At present there are  many approaches to interpreting phenomenon “paradox”.

Due to their variety paradoxes feature different depth and scale of their manifestation and consequently can be systematized (classified) on different bases. First of all classification of the paradoxes by kinds of activities should be named: economic (Zaslavskaya T.I (2003); Makarov D.(2003)), political (Beck U.(2003; Eizenstadt S.N.(1999), Elbert M.M. (1991); Gorshkov M.K (2004;, Khalipov V.F.(2004); social (Alexander J. (1997); Kudryavtzev V.N.(2004); Urry J (2000), spiritual (Alexander J.(2003); Menn A.(2003); Schluster W. (1996) spheres of societal life. Some paradoxes in the different spheres of Russian society are considered by V.Barulin, Yu.Levada, V.Tomalinzev, Toshchenko Zh. and others (4).

Further, paradoxes may be analyzed within the framework of that sphere of scientific knowledge, which is subject to analysis: field of mathematics, physics, history, logic, philosophy etc. (Alexander J. (1997); Dutton W.H.(1997);  Goryunov V.P.(1997), Luhmann N. (1981); Owen T.(2000); Polanyi M. (1966);

A great importance for social science acquires analysis of subjects of paradoxicality – a society as a whole, classes (Maximov B.L. (2005), social groups (Smith K. and Berg D. (1997), communities (Mnatzakanian D.M. (2004); and individuals (Bauman Z.(2001);Nicolson M.N. (1959); as well as social institutes (family, religion) (Mchedlov M.P.(2004),  Solodnikov V.V.(2003) and social organizations (production associations, parties, voluntary communities) (Boykov V.E.(2004); Inglegart R.(2003) etc. To emphasize here are manifestations of paradoxicality in the activity of regional or local autarchy, when interests of a given territory or given settlement are opposed to interests of the country and of similar territorially-spatial formations (Robertson R.(1995), Tzvetkova G.A.(2002).

Moreover, paradoxes can be classified by the most acute problems (if affecting the whole society) and accordingly analyzed in connection with existence of such contradictory phenomena, as elites, centrism, role and a place of intellectuals in modern society, etc. (Ritzer G.(2004), Smith J.and Johnston H.(2002), Sokolov V.B.(2005), Krishtanovskaya O.V.(2000). At the same time paradoxes in consciousness and behavior of people are diverse, affect various sides of their life and are differently displayed in specific circumstances with reference to certain problems.

There are some approaches to the paradoxes in management and organizations – Button C. and Dourish P. (1996) ; Farson R. (1997), Lewis S. (1995), Veney C. and Adamson S. (1997)

And at last, there are some unordered cases (incidents) of paradoxicality that frequently are products and/or elements of more significant social paradoxes (Braungart R. and Braungart M. (1997), Kozlova N.N.(2005), Lapaeva V.V.(1998);  Popova I.M.(2000).

From the point of view of paradoxes’ role in regulating public life it is possible to classify them as creative, constructive and destructive; if knowing them, ways and means might be elaborated for resolving amassing social problems. While using this approach it is important to define whether paradoxicality is supported consciously, the stand promising considerable benefits and significant dividends for its initiators, or it develops spontaneously. A certain interest attract so-called hidden paradoxes; formation of them could be foreseen, if consequences of decisions being taken are subjected to detailed and thorough analysis, as for example in case of discussing destiny, ways and methods to realize policy and practice of land tenure and landed property in Russia.

At the same time it is necessary to note complexity in classifying "hybrids" of theoretical investigations and public practice, where such word combinations sprang up as "national capitalism", "ethnic socialism and capitalism", “oligarchic democracy", "a democratic state of law" etc.

Sociological approach to paradoxes permits to reveal their manifestations in real life, in process of realizing these or other kinds of activity, for paradoxicality is inherent not only in process of cognition, but also in reality itself. Indeed, closer analysis of history inevitably makes us to conclude that paradoxicality of consciousness and behavior had been inherent in human beings at all stages of social development. But especially evident, sharp and volumetric this paradoxicality becomes for societies with an unstable development, those in a state of instability, amorphy, uncertainty with regard to vector of historical process. In these conditions paradoxes of consciousness and behavior become massive, universal, give rise to freakish combinations of good and evil, honor and intent, fidelity and treachery, reckless innovation and obstinate traditionalism.

Summing up the above it is possible to say that under paradoxes are meant:

а) opinion or a statement - strange, deviating from generally accepted ones, contradicting (sometimes only at the first sight) the common sense. Such situation is widespread covering a significant spectrum of phenomena - from a delusion to new, pioneering ideas that are met quite often with hostile reception;

b) phenomenon that seems improbable (or an improbable, surprising case). Under this headline comes a sufficiently wide circle of real processes and phenomena - from the unidentified flying objects to situations when manufacturer considers it unprofitable to sow cotton, buckwheat or to cultivate garden (or pay taxes) under outward well-wishing official economic and social policy line;

c) process that, when realized, leads to a result, directly opposite to the earlier proclaimed purposes or at least in principle qualitatively differing from initial plans or intentions.

Thus, analysis of really functioning consciousness and behavior uncovers a special class of phenomena – paradoxes that should be considered as a specific form of contradictions, which demand revealing deep causal and consequential relations between opposing attitudes and popular orientations. An exceptional significance has the fact that paradoxes are peculiar not only for society, state, social groups or organizations, but also for consciousness of the very individual, who harbors mutually excluding motives and values. This could possibly be disregarded, had these phenomena not gained a massive character. Moreover, paradoxicality of consciousness tends to growth. How is it to be explained?



There are obvious and latent causes for wide circulation of paradoxes.

Initial fundamental reason of peoples’ paradoxical consciousness and behavior is the fact that Russian society is not a monolithic and uniform - it retains a lot of the former, soviet traits, but there arose some new characteristics, linked to market. A close interlacing of things forged, accumulated and still persisting being fused with new relations gives rise (and must give rise) to extremely surprising combinations, metamorphoses, contradictions and paradoxes. Ignoring these basic and specific phenomena in public consciousness and behavior of people, which have a strategic value for understanding present Russian society, has resulted, results and will result in those failures, costs, zigzags, miscalculations and inconsistencies that are so characteristic both for modern Russian social sciences, as for social practice; as a result many projects and programs offered to the society at the given stage of the development of Russia had collapsed. And to build perspective on doubtful assumptions and illusions is no less disastrous than persistently and obstinately to adhere to old dogmas, dead theories and doubtful concepts. Both in this and in other cases society is seized by a crisis which leads to changing way and style of life, to a radical crash of the previously existing value system, to loss of  former ideals, to illegibility or absence of new ideals. As a result, formation and existence of paradoxes are accompanied by revival of processes that had gone ahead in undeveloped, latent ways and characterize in recent conditions a new level of contradictions in social consciousness.

Formation of paradoxes is influenced by frustration - a situation of impossibility to satisfy meaningful need of a person, to realize motives for activity. There develops tension, feeling of hopelessness and despair. This impossibility is in its essence a break between motivations for activity and its result, which cannot but be accompanied by formation of paradoxes arising on a verge of professed former values and recognizable impossibility of their former existence, on a verge of opposition between former reference points in culture with the just ripening ones, because previously existing not only political, but also civil ideals are destructed and lost and the new ones are as yet absent.

Not in a smaller measure formation of paradoxes in consciousness and behavior of people is influenced by broken continuity in the development, by thoughtless and premature experiments, weak account given to, or even ignoring of the influence of mentalities, traditions and customs.

It should be especially emphasized that an overall crisis of social consciousness is manifold, diverse, an index for that is swift increase of its paradoxicality: social consciousness in conditions of social upheaval cannot be reconstructed at once, immediately, following the events. No society is capable to escape from itself, from experiences that had been accumulated, from what it had known and professed earlier, what it had been guided by, what it had wanted to achieve.

An important precondition and cause for paradoxicality the objective contradictions are active which apart from will and consciousness of person or groups of people are emerging in the process of cognizing and realizing its conclusions and results. This is what students of logic of cognizing pay attention to in the first line. Thus, A.A. Zenkin gives following example: "One great scientist discovers a completely abstract formula E=m2c, the second great scientist discovers a new chemical element U-238, the third, talented engineer, invents a technology for enriching uranium and makes from it a nuclear bomb, the fourth, a politician, takes decision to use this nuclear bomb for most "lofty and humane" purposes, the fifth, the pilot - the executor, brings "the Kid" to destination and makes with it what he was ordered to. "Humanitarian" consequences of such a "gift" are memorized till now. Who is to blame? This is a question to which there is no answer. So, one of the greatest factors of industrial progress - the principle of division of labor for the sake of its increased efficiency "for the good …" has as its consequence, first, division of responsibility, and then – split of conscience”(1.Zenkin A.,2000, p.45-48). Is not this global historical situation that prepares conditions for formation of the paradoxes, when each separate act is legal and lawful in itself, but the result of their overlapping brings about unforeseen and unacceptable consequences for humankind.

Causes for emergence of paradoxes might be attributed to situations, which T. Kun terms anomalies and crises of knowledge (Kuhn T., 1975), when new objects are imperceptibly involved in the orbit of research, presence of which tends gradually to question true nature of the existing picture of the world and its components. These situations result in the fact, that inexplicable factors are accumulated in the system of knowledge quite often assuming form of paradoxes.

A weighty cause for formation of paradoxicality is also the fact, that process of cognition - on the whole and even in specific sciences - has brought about, first, huge amount of varying research "logic", and, second, such a semantic variety for expressing the same essence made problematic mutual understanding not only between representatives of various sciences, but also inside a science. And this process, objectively reflecting differentiation and deeper experience in cognition, resulted in a situation where creators of various branches of knowledge ceased to understand each other, having their own, rather original and specific opinions on those or other concrete situations. Moreover, in scientific community the talk is not so much about different methods of cognizing the same essence, as about an exclusive correctness of selected approach. This kind of scientific intolerance towards another logic has resulted in a phenomenon alien for science, when whole areas of knowledge are declared spheres of exclusive professional interests of only one science, denying the right for others to interfere in its competence, first of all by fencing the area off from philosophy, let alone adjacent sciences. These peculiar prohibitions are regularly surfacing academic life, becoming a brake in scholarly development and slowing down solution only of theoretical problems but also, as it turns out, those of practice. In an article by academy member V.I. Arnold it is convincingly shown on the example of attitudes to G. Cantor’s theory, when attempts to idolize and turn it into an absolute have resulted in "cerebral left-hemisphere criminality" and "cerebral left-hemisphere abstractionism". In his opinion, ""the Mafia of cerebral left-hemisphere mathematics" with its wide influence has managed in mid-20th century to exclude geometry from mathematical education (first in France, then in other countries) and has replaced the whole substantial side of this discipline by training in formal manipulations with abstract concepts. An "abstract" description of mathematics of this kind is unsuitable neither for training, nor for any practical application" and, moreover, breeds “current sharply negative attitude of society and government to mathematics" (Arnold V.I., 2000, P.555-558).

Similar trend is inherent not only in mathematics. Using the data related to forging of the relativity theory (analyses of that story are till now accompanied by numerous discussions) J.Alexander and  V.S. Stepin demonstrate mechanism for making and overcoming paradoxes in other areas of knowledge (Alexander J. (1997), Stepin V.S. 2000).

Such situations are inherent in all sciences to differing extent. This is a quite natural development in scientific knowledge enabling resolution of many abnormal paradoxical situations. The key question is not existence of paradoxes, but the way to approach their solution.

A contradiction between theory and facts is contributing in not a minor degree to engendering paradoxes; between them, in opinion of M.Polanyi, there is no "logic bridge", for "to each act of consciousness there is a passionate contribution of cognizing person, and this addition is not an evidence for imperfection, but an essentially necessary element of knowledge" (Polanyi M. 1966, p.19). The theory of implicit knowledge founded by M. Polany explains in many respects formation of paradoxes and contradictions between two types of knowledge: central or obvious, explicit, and peripheral, not obvious, latent, implicit one (V.A. LektorskiyV.A. 1998, p.41).

Main obstacle in the way of overcoming such contradictions is a prevalence of one of the concepts that claims for exclusiveness, for absolute knowledge of truth, rejecting all other possible versions. Something similar happened also to Marxism in the Soviet Union causing a plethora of paradoxical situations both in theory and practice.

As already said, probability of generating paradoxicality grows immeasurably during revolutionary, transformational changes in the society, which entail usually processes of crisis. Under these conditions previously existing paradoxes are modified, or transformed and born in a new shape. In a transforming society there are developing such processes like breaks in a smooth interrelations between values and orientations with social structure of society, growing influence of the "pressure groups" on the process of social consciousness functioning, inadequate reactions of society and power structures to ongoing changes. Under these conditions there arises an urgent task to redefine treatment of the false, catastrophic, mythologized and "sick" consciousness, of the role and place of myths, stereotypes and archetypes in life of individuals.

When scrutinizing paradoxes, not only the fact should be emphasized that their common characteristic involves divergence and/or opposition, and resistance to each other, of opinions, statements, attitudes and orientations, but also the fact that they coexist, combine and function in consciousness of one and the same person.

Paradoxicality is strengthened also because modern "world demands involving of a person into a constantly growing variety of social structures what entails a huge burden for mentality, as well as stresses that destroy one’s health. The volume of information, stressful loads, cancerogens, contaminated environment, accumulation of harmful mutations - all this are problems of today\\'s reality, its routine realities" (Stepin V.S. p.32). Sociological studies have found paradoxes first of all in those spheres of public life, which have been subject to changes in essence and which influence daily life of humans, their state of mood and health. A search is especially actual for public opinion of Russia’s citizens in present situation, search for an answer to the question - who bears responsibility, who is to blame for societal changes so much unfavorable for majority of population?

Analysis of essence, contents and features of paradoxes and of their place in social consciousness and behavior enables us to make following conclusion.

Sociological research of paradoxes is a fruitful channel of cognizing real contradictions in consciousness and behavior of people, an effective means of obtaining more complete and exhaustive information on processes evolving in society. Studying paradoxes permits to avoid imbalances, exaggerations of importance of one phenomena while ignoring others, warns against absolutizing limited data. A special importance in research of paradoxes deserves refusal to oppose one information to another by principle "truly - false", "is true – is wrong", "necessary - incidental". Only a comprehensive, complex, systemic study of a phenomenon results in scientifically validated conclusions and recommendations, if it comes to practical solution of social issues.

By studying paradoxes a methodological requirement is of importance - to compare an estimated knowledge of a person about environment with forecasting probable behavior of this person in ongoing processes. Taking into account only one of these components means an avenue to incomplete, unbalanced conclusions, possible errors, inadequate reflection of reality, wrong orientation and even misinformation of social consciousness.

Studies of paradoxes in consciousness and behavior of people should go in parallel with studying degree of a person’s readiness to risk, to endure possible discomfort in life, one’s attitudes to prospective costs and sacrifices. And if the degree of this readiness is expressed to an insignificant measure, so at a critical stage of the development popular desire would clearly displayed to avoid by any means social cataclysms and sacrifices. In these conditions most "furious" verbal statements and affirmations have no price for they reflect a short-term, momentary and situational character of human moods that are quickly fading off under pressure of eventually serious social consequences.

In my opinion, an important point for understanding nature of paradoxes is the individual’s self-estimation, especially in the situation of a choice. "Experiments show, - asserts M.A. Rozov, - that the choice presumes a self-estimation, not an estimation of the activity of other people, but exactly an estimation of oneself, of one’s own behavior. It can seem strange: a person has around a huge number of behavior patterns, a huge quantity of "scenarios", he/she has to choose the best one and therefore only these "scenarios" are subject to an estimation, instead of something else… An estimation of others does not change at all the behavior of the one, who estimates: this behavior is changed only by self-estimation" (Teoriya poznanija (Theory of knowledge): Moscow, 1995, p.16.)

At the turning-points of history a numerical increase of formally logic paradoxes is possible, when external discrepancy of mutually exclusive motives, attitudes and purposes hides deep contradictions, which quite often lay in another field of people’s activity and are mediated by another group of the interests that sometimes for whatever reasons are posited to the forefront.

It is these very paradoxical phenomena that should be analyzed first of all, because in our opinion the root cause of all tensions, conflicts, misunderstandings and struggles is frequently hidden after all in consciousness and behavior of a person itself. And the more a person can have influence on other people, on the destinies of society or on concrete social institute, the more significant are consequences of its actions and the greater is its responsibility for them. "The Man, heal himself " - this biblical wisdom, in our opinion, is as never salient for solving not only private, but also public problems that begin their countdown just at what occurs in individual’s consciousness and behavior.

Summarizing, it is possible to conclude that a paradox has following characteristics as a real manifestation of contradiction in social consciousness and behavior.

First, paradox harbors reflection of discrepant process of knowledge when existing arguments on this or that process or phenomenon prove in equal measure both true and false character of an assumption. In other words, available knowledge (information) does not permit to draw unequivocal conclusions and to attain indisputable deductions. This opportunity to receive not simply other, but mutually exclusive results is a basis (base) for continued existence of paradoxes already formed and for emergence of the new ones. As another version of emerging paradoxes acts ambiguity (variance) in treating specific concept in process of cognition, which can be overcome by harmonizing meanings of these or other definitions.

Second, paradoxes in consciousness and behavior of the people are bred by contradictions in life experience, when real practice features not only existence of mutually exclusive values and attitudes within separate social groups and people, but also cultivation of this contradiction engendering statements, actions and acts opposing each other.

Third, a paradox is manifest in a situation when real process and idea (knowledge) of it are identified, what happens most often in process of individual’s transforming activity. This identification of reality with knowledge of it leads quite often to contradictions that are hard to resolve, when process of knowledge can reflect reality approximately, and sometimes only one-sidedly, failing thus to correspond to practice that, owing to this fact, rejects not only it, but also all scientific knowledge. It is even worse, when people oppose knowledge to reality.

Fourth, an absolutization of former knowledge entails formation, generation of paradoxical situations, when a changed situation of life dictates other logic and other program for behavior of the people. Especially evident is it in social political activity, when paradox involves realization, say, by a political party, of goals rejected completely or partly by previous experience.

Fifth, paradoxes are bred by situational character in activities of economic, political, social or spiritual process subjects, when they make decisions and carry out actions creators of which are guided by limited information sources and fail to take into account data in all its complexity disregarding knowledge not identical to their opinion.

And finally, paradoxes are manifest in case when most diverse actions, rational in themselves separately, brought together form a system, display not simply inconsistency, but absolutely contrasting incompatibility with each other.

Thus, paradoxes are in most cases the divergent, conflicting and even mutually resisting opinions, statements, attitudes, orientations, actions, which do exist, are combined and function in consciousness and behavior of the very same individuals.



1. For more details, cf.: Filosofskaya entsiklopediya (Philosophical encyclopedia). Vol. 4, Moscow, 1967. p.p. 207-208;

2. Speaking about role and value of theory of the sets by G. Cantor and the paradoxes formulated by him, it is necessary to note, that in scientific literature there appeared critical voices (academician V.I.Arnol\\'d, prof. A.A.Zenkin), questioning his discovery naming it "a flagrantly naive argumentation", where in "10 lines of the proof there are 7 (seven!) very not trivial logic mistakes", which are "bound in an inconceivable tangle of almost plausible arguments". In our opinion, such severe criticisms of one of the foundators of modern mathematics might be explained by the nature of thorny roads of knowledge, complexity of methods to solve arising issues, and also by attempts to absolutize and even to idolize one of possible methods of cognizing the world around us. (For more detail: Arnol’d V.I. Antinauchnaja revoliutsiya i matematika (Anti-scientific revolution and mathematics) // Vestnik RAN. 1999 No. 6; Zenkin A.A. Oshibka Georga Kantora (A mistake of Georg Cantor) // Voprosy filosofii. 2000. No. 2.

3. Scholars, basically psychologists, have paid attention to this phenomenon rather recently, but also they analyze this problem in context of solving other research problems. Cf.: Vasiljuk F.E. Psihologiya perezhivaniya (Psychology of the excitement.) Moscow, 1984; Abolin L.M. Psihologicheskie mekhanizmy emotsional\\'noy ustoychivosti cheloveka (Psychological mechanisms of emotional stability of a person). Kazan, 1987; Ageev V.S. Mezhgruppovoe vzaimodeystvie (Intergroup interaction). Moscow, 1990; Kitaev-Smyk L.A. Psikhologiya stressa (Psychology of stress). Moscow, 1983; Grimak L.P. Obshchenie s soboy (Communicating with oneself). Moscow, 1991.

4. About paradoxes of public life and public consciousness, see: Barulin V.S. Rossiysky tshelovek v XX veke. Poteri i obreteniya (Russian individual in XX century. Losses and findings). SPb, 2000; Castels M. Informatsionnya epokha: ekonomika, obshchestvo i kul’tura (Information era: economy, society and culture) / Transl. from English, O.I. Shkaratan ed. Moscow, 2000; Levada Yu. Ot mneniy k ponimaniyu: sotsiologicheskiye ocherki (From opinions to understanding: sociological sketches). 1993-2000. Moscow; Tomalinzev V.I. Tshelovek na rubezhe tysiatsheletiy. Paradoksy dukhovnogo pazvitiya (A person on the boundary of millennia. Paradoxes of spiritual development). SPb, 1999 etc. Also:http://www.google.com “Paradoxalniy chelovek” (Paradoxical Man)”



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            Toshchenko Zhan Terent’evich, professor of sociology and head of Department of Sociology, Russian University for Humanities; Editor-in-chief, journal “Sotziologicheskiya issledovaniya” (Sociological research).

Mailing address: Frunzenskaya nab. 36-364, Moscow, Russia 119146

E-mail address: zhantosch@mtu-net.ru; socis@isras.ru

Telephone:     of. +7(495)1201050; (499) 9734212.

                        h. +7(499)2420427

Fax number: +7(495)1288439; +7(499)9734212.




Biographical Note:

Toschenko Zhan Terent’evich, professor of sociology and head of Department of Sociology, Russian University for Humanities; Editor-in-chief, journal “Sotziologicheskiya issledovaniya” (Sociological research), corresponding-member of Russian Academy of Sciences

He was published in the field of Theory of Sociology and Political Sociology. His books include “Social infrastructure” (Moscow, 1981), “Social planning in USSR” (Moscow, 1980), “Social Designing”(Moscow, 1983), “Ideology and Life”(Moscow, 1985), “Social Consciousness and Perestroyka” (Moscow, 1990),  “Social Mood” (Moscow, 1995), ”Postsoviet Space”(Moscow, 1997), “Paradoxical Man” (Moscow, 2001), “Ethnocracy: History and Modernity” (Moscow, 2003), “Sociology of Work” (Moscow, 2005), “Sociology (Textbook)” (1994- first edition,  1997-2004 – 2nd edition, 2005 –3rd edition), “Theocracy (interaction of religion and political power) (2007). 





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