Purpose: The paper tries to explore the possibility of developing a theory of science that is compatible with the non-dualizing way of speaking. Problem: The difficulty of developing a non-dualism-compatible theory of science consists in the difference of the perspectives of the theory of science and the non-dualizing way of speaking. The non-dualizing way of speaking deals with descriptions as results of inquiries, whereas science theory thematizes the process of gaining descriptions in empirical research. If we want to reach compatibility between these different perspectives, we are led to the question of what kind of relationship exists between inquiry and description and what is the source of attaining knowledge. In respect of social sciences, there is the additional problem that a great deal of their objects are text; therefore the relationship between text and interpretation is relevant for the empirical research process of social sciences. Findings: George Herbert Mead’s theory of action and communication allows a productive approach to the above-mentioned problem to be found. Mead conceives of speaking as potential acting, as action that is initiated but not carried out. In this way, describing and inquiring can be connected non-dualistically. The source of gaining knowledge and descriptions is, however, according to Mead’s action theory, practical activities. Objects are not presupposed, but are results from action. New experiences and descriptions come from inquiries that are stimulated by action problems and action inhibition and the endeavor to overcome the inhibition. Implications: The result of the argumentation is that Mead’s conception of action and language can serve to develop a theory of science that is compatible with non-dualizing thinking. The reason for this is that in Mead’s conception, acting and speaking, experiencing and describing are not conceived of as categorical differences but are related to each other as executed and initiated.
Excerpt: Is Josef Mitterer’s non-dualizing philosophy yet another philosophical flavor, of which there are so many in the academic world? Yet another philosophical trinket that arouses the short-lived attention of some people and disappears quickly thereafter? Yet another dalliance without implications either for philosophy or for science? We are convinced of the contrary. For many years Mitterer has steadily built up a reputation as an innovative but at the same time also very careful thinker. His claims have been discussed in various circles, but, unfortunately, this has so far happened in German- and Polish-speaking countries only. Meanwhile “take your time” has taken time and Mitterer celebrated his 60th birthday in July 2008, an opportunity we used to gather connoisseurs of his work to discuss, for the first time in the English language, his achievements and impact. The result is in no relation to the limited spread of his ideas so far. We have collected some 22 contributions covering a large variety of intellectual terrain and pointing out the potential impact of his philosophy from now on.
Context: Non-dualism suggests a new way of utilizing language without the assumption of categorically extralinguistic objects denoted by language. Problem: What is the innovative potential, what is the special value of non-dualism for science? Is non-dualism a fruitful conceptual revision or just a philosophical thought experiment with no or little significance for science? Method: We provide a concise introduction to non-dualism’s central new proposals and an overview of the papers. Results: Fourteen contributors show how this way of thinking and speaking can be operationalized creatively, but also address some of its boundaries. Implications: Since not all of the aspects and problems highlighted for discussion in the original Call for Papers were answered satisfactorily, further research is necessary. For example, research is needed on the relationship between dualism’s distinction between object language and metalanguage on the one hand and non-dualism’s distinction between descriptions so far and descriptions from now on on the other; or on the infinite regress allegations by non-dualism against dualism. Constructivist content: Some authors show that non-dualist thinking is anti-essentialist, in a similar way as constructivist thinking. Some also show that comparable questions arise; for example, the question of whether non-dualism denies the material world (containing extralinguistic objects).
In two books the Austrian philosopher Josef Mitterer has developed a non-dualistic alternative to both realistic and idealistic positions. It dispenses with the categorical distinction between description and reality beyond description. In “The Third Philosophy,” scientists from the fields of philosophy, psychology, sociology, art history, media and communication studies and political science explore the potential of Mitterer’s criticism of dualistic thinking for key issues and open questions. The anthology brings together established names such as Volker Gadenne, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Walter Grasnick, Adolf Holl, Peter Janich, Konrad Paul Liessmann, Siegfried J. Schmidt, Peter Strasser and Peter Weibel and a young generation of scientists. These authors address issues such as the relation of non-duality to (radical) constructivism and its compatibility with the actor-network theory of Bruno Latour. The book is based on the special issue of Constructivist Foundations 3(3) dedicated to the work of Josef Mitterer.
Problem: Mitterer’s critique of the central argumentations of radical constructivists has been mostly neglected until today. The paper presents and evaluates his criticism and, in the second part, outlines a format of constructivism that tries to draw appropriate consequences. Solution: In his critique Mitterer explains why the radical constructivism represented above all by Maturana, Varela, von Glasersfeld or Roth still remains in a dualistic format. In his view Neurobiology is used in their writings as the indisputable basis for deriving far-reaching epistemological consequences. Therefore constructivism evades self-application. To overcome this serious critique a different approach to constructivist thinking is sketched that operates without using any biological or psychological theories, tries to avoid dualism, and elaborates Mitterer’s basic argument that the description of an object and the object under description are the same. Benefits: The paper shows what constructivism can learn from a serious critique and how it can be rewritten in a non-dualistic way.
Der österreichische Philosoph Josef Mitterer wurde 1948 in dem kleinen Tiroler Ort Westendorf geboren. Er studierte Philosophie, Psychologie und Soziologie in Innsbruck und Linz und verbrachte Studienaufenthalte an der London School of Economics, der Universität Heidelberg und dem Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik. 1976 ging er an die University of California in Berkeley, um bei Paul Feyerabend zu studieren, dessen erkenntnis- und wissenschaftstheoretische Arbeiten neben der Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins stark zur Ausarbeitung und Schärfung seines eigenen philosophischen Ansatzes einer non-dualistischen Erkenntnistheorie beitrugen. 1978 promovierte Mitterer an der Universität Graz bei Rudolf Haller mit einer Dissertation mit dem Titel Sprache und Wirklichkeit. Eine erkenntnistheoretische Abhandlung. Diese Schrift wurde erst 1992 unter dem Titel Das Jenseits der Philosophie publiziert. 1999 habilitierte sich Mitterer an der Universität Klagenfurt mit der Arbeit Die Flucht aus der Beliebigkeit, die im gleichen Jahr im Drava-Verlag in Klagenfurt veröffentlicht wurde. Angekündigt ist ein drittes Buch mit dem Titel Die Richtung des Denkens, in dem der Ansatz des Non-Dualismus vervollständigt werden soll. Nach seiner Promotion verließ Mitterer den akademischen Bereich und arbeitete als Skilehrer sowie in verschiedenen Positionen im Tourismusbereich in Europa, Kanada, den USA und Asien. Da Werk wurde zwischen 1973 und 1978 geschrieben, erschien aber erst 1992 im Passagen-Verlag in Wien als Band 38 der Edition Passagen. Neben diesem Werk greife ich auch auf Zitate aus Mitterers Habilitationsschrift zurück, die (nach der Erstveröffentlichung im Drava-Verlag) 2001 unter dem Titel Die Flucht aus der Beliebigkeit im Fischer Taschenbuchverlag in Frankfurt am Main erschien.
Purpose: Explaining the relationship between theory and empirical research within the research process. The main motivation is to show that non-dualizing epistemology and constructivism have approximately the same ideas to explain this relationship. Problem: Josef Mitterer criticizes constructivism as a dualizing epistemology and “overlooks” that non-dualizing philosophy and constructivist perspectives are similar with regard to the relationship between theory and empirical research. Method: (1) Reconstruction of non-dualizing argumentation, (2) non-dualizing implications for the description of the relationship between theory and empirical research, (3) comparison of non-dualizing implications for the relationship between theory and empirical research with constructivist implications for this relationship. Solution: Finding a position on the description of the relationship between theory and empirical research that fits both epistemologies i.e. non-dualizing philosophy and constructivism. If we discard the critical rationalist idea to falsify theory with the help of empirical research (which reflects reality), we better conceive the relationship between theory and empirical research as a permanent and mutual refinement, stabilization and irritation. Implications: With the help of non-dualizing argumentation, constructivists have to clarify their position towards the relationship between theory and empirical research, particularly towards the choice of methods and the interpretation of the results; and non-dualizing epistemology can profit from constructivist second-order argumentation.
Problem: The article seeks to tackle three problems of Mitterer’s non-dualistic philosophy. Firstly, the key term description remains not only rather unclear and rudimentary but also isolated from relevant neighboring terms and theories of other disciplines. Secondly, a logical reconstruction and formal model of non-dualism is still lacking. Thirdly, there are hardly any extensions of philosophical non-dualism to non-philosophical disciplines and fields. Findings: The three main findings of the article are based on the abovementioned problems. Firstly, the non-dualistic term description will be connected to the sociological and semiotic term meaning by emphasizing their semantic-pragmatic similarities. Moreover, a common and distinction-theoretic conceptualization of both terms will be proposed. Secondly, a non-dualistic formalization and logical reconstruction will be elaborated by deducing non-dualism from dualism using the operation of re-entry. Thirdly, the non-dualistic formalization will be applied to the classical semiotic triangle, resulting in the elaboration of a non-dualistic semiotic triangle. Benefits: The aforementioned findings have two possible benefits. Firstly, the compatibility between the terms description and meaning makes philosophical non-dualism connectable to social science approaches, especially to sociology and semiotics. This may be an important avenue for interdisciplinary cross-fertilization and co-operation. Secondly, the formalization and logical deduction may help to clarify and explicitize non-dualism’s main arguments and implicit assumptions.
The book presents a general and formal theory of meaning, signs, and language. Its philosophical base rests on a constructivist and non-dualist approach that leads to an ontological monism of meaning or language. The theory offers novel and provocative insights into the fundamental structures and processes of communication, cognition, and reality. Key topics include the construction and use of distinctions and categories, the self-contradictory dualism of word vs. object, linguistic meaning monism, interpretive relations and processes in the semiotic triangle, conceptual prototypicality and fuzziness, semantic fields and frames, meaning medium vs. forms, as well as activation and co-activation of meanings. In order to illustrate and apply the theory, everyday examples, in particular power and law, are discussed throughout the book. Methodological questions of data collection and analysis are also addressed as they are relevant to the empirical application and verification of the theory.
Excerpt: Can you imagine a non-observable, un-describable state?… There are trivialities that hide abysses… To solve the paradox of the very beginning of the world one has to reject dualistic ontology… From now on, all of the perceptions and ideas embedded in God’s mind have never been anything other than descriptions so far and from now on.