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Essentially Oxymoronic Concepts

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Can someone be guilty and innocent, or an act be lawful and unlawful, at the same time? Or is it possible to express something which is at the same time “stupid” and “smart”? As a matter of fact, the present paper argues that these things are not only possible but also happen nowadays more frequently as there is currently a rise in the formulation and usage of what I term “essentially oxymoronic concepts” in various scientific discourses and public debates as well as in daily conversations. These concepts are used to describe and analyse a wide range of increasingly complex phenomena that are caused by, inter alia, a general perception of an acceleration of change framed in a system delimited by apparently antagonistic concepts. The article first explores the potential impact of these concepts on legal science and their relevance for it. Then it advocates the idea that – in contrast to essentially contested concepts – essentially oxymoronic concepts elevate conflicts from the external and interpersonal to the internal and intrapersonal level of the mind.

Affiliations: 1: Mag. iur. (University of Graz), LL.M. (McGill), Ph.D. (EUI), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Macau,


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